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Drawing the Euthanasia Movement Together

Thursday, August 20, 1970

The majority of the members of voluntary euthanasia ­societies around the world joined because either they thought they would discover how to avoid pain and suffering if they should develop an illness which might cause them unendurable agony or because they wished to support the campaign to change the laws of their country to enable people to have a peaceful death with medical assistance.

The various national societies reflect in their aims and methods of work the different cultural and political conditions they have to cope with. This book provides a guide to the forty-five societies which deal with the issues which arise when trying to achieve a good death at the end of life; the information provided includes not only the usual contact details for all the societies but also an explanation of the laws of the relevant country relating to voluntary euthanasia, ­suicide and assisted suicide.

Readers are reminded that, although in most countries suicide is no longer a crime, it is often a criminal offence to help someone to commit suicide, thus achieving the absurdity of making it a crime to assist someone to do something which is lawful.

The book deals with different matters from those ­considered in the author’s best-selling Final Exit.

Apart from the legalities of assisted suicide, Derek Humphry uses his twenty-five years’ experience in the movement to explain the different attitudes which have developed between those who campaign for legislative change and those for whom compassion brings the wish to provide help for patients who are suffering now and cannot wait for the unavoidable slowness of the parliamentary process to run its course.

The details are outside the scope of the book but the gap between some of the VE societies is, in fact , very wide: some support the research into the development of the ‘Lastwillpill’ or ‘Peaceful Pill’ (for use by the elderly who are not terminally ill but are in extremely poor health and tired of life), some agree with the Caring Friends Program started by the Hemlock Society in America (which provides ­volunteers who will be ­present, when required, to give information, comfort and support to those who are contemplating ending their lives because of their unremitting suffering) and other societies accept the euthanasia clinics organized by Dr. Philip Nitschke (which provide information on what is called self-deliverance).

Some, on the other hand, usually those closely-wedded to changing the law, are so concerned that they might be tainted in some way by any reference to these activities, lawful though they may be, that they refuse even to mention them and so keep their members in ignorance of what is going on the in the field in which they are particularly interested.

Derek ends the book by setting out the lessons to be learned from the successful campaigns in Oregon in 1994 and again in 1997 to approve the Death with Dignity Act. He also considers the best way forward for the right-to-die movement and offers some wise and practical advice for those contemplating self-deliverance. In 192 pages and four appendices this book covers a great deal of ground.

Its mood is unsensational and its method is rational; it provides a stimulus for the newcomer to the issue of ­achieving a good and peaceful death and also for the ­seasoned campaigner.

—Malcolm Hurwitt
Former Chair of the Voluntary Euthanasia
Society of England and Wales
Former Secretary of the World Federation of
Right to Die Societies

The Good Euthanasia Guide 2004:
Where, What, and Who in Choices in Dying.
By Derek Humphry.
192 pages. Paperback original.
ISBN 0963728083. Price: $12 US.
(with shipping, prices $15 US,
Canada $20 US, overseas airmail $22 US)
Book obtainable via website
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