Friday, March 11, 2005

Where are they when you're dying?

You can see all of the 2004 report of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act at

You may have to copy and paste this URL into your browser

For me, the most interesting table is table # 4, about those present at the ingestion of the lethal overdose:
  • In the 37 cases, six doctors were present
  • In the 37 cases, 25 'other providers' were present (volunteers, family?)
  • In the 37 cases, six people had nobody present.
I have always believed, and pressed for, the doctors who write the lethal prescription should be present at the rational suicide which they have set in motion.

Derek Humphry, journalist & author
President, ERGO (Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization).
24829 Norris Lane, Junction City, Oregon 97448 USA.
Fax/Ph: +541-998-1873


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Dying need a 'peaceful pill' available

A Peaceful Pill Needed For The Terminally Ill
Who Want One

(Sensible suggestions solicited by Nutech.)

From the problems and statistics currently coming out of Oregon that the medical profession and the medical sciences are not interested in improving the procedure
of physician-assisted suicide.

It needs to be flawless to give people confidence in using it.

Doctors now are rarely at the bedside, even if they have prescribed the lethal overdose to be taken orally; no scientific work has been done on perfecting the sophisticated use of drugs to achieve a speedy, painless death if desired by terminally or hopelessly ill patient.

There is a organization known as New Technology in Self-Deliverance (NuTech for short) which has been working for the last five years on finding the exactly right, medically acceptable, legally safe, means of killing oneself by popping a deadly pill.

It is an ad hoc international group of some 30 physicians, pharmacists, medical technicians and social workers who meet once a year to pool their knowledge about all forms and experiences of euthanasia (help with a good death). And plan alternatives. Thus far NuTech has invented the technique of a person choosing to end his or her life with the use of inert gas inside a plastic bag. Scores of Americans have already used this method for unconsciousness within seconds and death within ten minutes. This way does not break the law because it is the patient’s own actions which cause death.

But what NuTech is truly looking for is the so-called ‘peaceful pill’ which a dying person< could elect to swallow and expire instantly. Dr. Philip Nitschke, a physician and physicist in Australia, has been leading the hunt for this, as have noted physicians like Dr. Ben Chabot and Dr. Pieter Admiraal in the Netherlands. It has not yet been found but they are working at it.

--Derek Humphry
Junction City, Oregon

The writer founded the Hemlock Society in 1980 and authored the #1 bestseller ‘Final Exit’. He is the international liason officer for NuTech.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Weaknesses in Oregon assisted suicide

The Oregonian newspaper and the news agencies are today reporting the failed physician-assisted suicide of David Pruitt. He took the doctor-prescribed overdose but woke up 62 hours later. He died of his cancer three weeks later.

Here's my view of what wrong with the Oregon law:

The miserable path to death of David Pruitt ("Why Am I Not Dead") shows why the Oregon Death With Dignity Act which permits physician-assisted suicide should be improved and strengthened.

First, at least one of the doctors who wrote the lethal prescription should be obliged to be at the bedside when it is ingested; usually they are nowhere near.

Second -- as in the Netherlands -- when the patient has elected to drink the barbiturate, a doctor should be able to give a lethal injection if the patient has not died after four hours. Barbiturates can be unreliable.

Your article quoted two cases of dying with oral ingestion of barbiturates taking 37 and 48 hours. The only legal, medical, assisted suicide I have ever attended (by a friend who wanted me there) the man was still alive seven
hours later, and his father smothered him.

In a real and compassionate world, if we are going to allow hastened deaths by request of the terminally and hopelessly ill, then let us do it efficiently, with lethal injection overdose and bedside medical oversight.

The Oregon law as it stands allows doctors to duck out of the final supervisory responsibility.

Derek Humphry, journalist & author
President, ERGO. (Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization)
24829 Norris Lane, Junction City, Oregon 97448 USA.
Fax/Ph: +541-998-1873

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Doctors coming round to assisted suicide

The medical profession is beginning to join public opinion on this subject, according to this poll:

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 3, 2005
Results of a national survey of 1,000 physicians revealed that a clear majority of physicians (57%) believe that it is ethical to assist an individual who has made a rational choice to die due to unbearable suffering, while 39% believe it is unethical.

In response to the Supreme Court's decision to hear a challenge to Oregon's Death with Dignity act -- the nation's only law on behalf of physician assisted suicide -- the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research and HCD Research, conducted the survey of physicians during the last week of February. The margin of error for the study was plus or minus 3% at a 95% level of confidence.

The findings also indicated that a plurality of physicians polled (41%) endorse the legalization of physician assisted suicide under a wide variety of circumstances, while 30% support its legalization in a few cases only and 29% oppose legalizing it in all cases. {end}

DEREK HUMPHRY, author of 'Final Exit'