Aug 29, 2013

BkRev: Humphry's Final Exit

Derek Humphry, Final Exit: The practicalities of self-deliverance and assisted suicide for the dying, New York, Delta (Random House), 2002, 220 pages

The title of this book is accurate. The book is about killing yourself if faced with a terminal, painful disease. The book is a guide to the many details that need attention, from making sure your death does not inadvertently involve loved ones in a criminal investigation, to wearing a baseball cap so that the bill of the cap will keep the plastic bag, which is over your head, from being drawn into your mouth with each inhalation.

The author makes sure the reader is suitable for suicide. Someone who is merely depressed, for example, should seek counseling not suicide. Once the reader determines that he is qualified for suicide, he can then follow the detailed guidelines for one of the options available. For instance, if one's own physician will not help by prescribing drugs, then the terminally ill person can purchase sedatives, a plastic bag, and other equipment. The author provides a checklist.

The main point of the book is that one must be prepared for a suicide that is both effective and least unpleasant as possible under the circumstances.

The author assumes the reader has no knowledge of chemistry and no experience with any of the ethical and legal issues involved. However, readers can skim parts of the short book. Not all parts apply to all readers, but they are all worth at least a quick reading. At each subject change, the author usually provides a guide to the reader, explaining each section's appropriateness for some readers but not for other readers.

For several decades, Derek Humphry, the author, worked as a journalist in England and in the USA. He helped found and manage euthanasia organizations. At 83, he now lives in Oregon, the first state in the USA to legalize suicide for terminally ill individuals. His books, which initially mainstream publishers would not accept, have been commercial successes. He has assisted three suicides, in the cautious manner he describes and recommends.

The chapters are many and short. The titles are largely self-explanatory and arc from making the decision to end one's life if medically doomed, to rejecting methods that are too risky, and then to the "final act." A few chapter titles are:

Ch. 1: The Most Difficult Decision
Ch. 2: Shopping for the Right Doctor
Ch. 3: Beware of the Law
Ch. 4: The Hospice Option
Ch. 11: Who Shall Know?
Ch. 16: Letters to Be Written
Ch. 20: Storing Drugs
Ch. 22: Self-Deliverance Using a Plastic Bag
Ch. 23: A Speedier Way: Inert Gases
Ch. 24: The Checklist
Ch. 25: The Final Act

Throughout these and other chapters, the author writes clearly and succinctly, with only enough repetition to make sure readers do not miss key points.

I recommend a casual reading of this book now, and then a second, close reading if and when the appropriate time comes to apply it. I hope that need never comes for you or for me. I hope to fully pursue my highest values in life for as long as I can, and then die naturally.

Aug 1, 2013

Best approach to disputes in the Objectivist movement?

I have been a student of Objectivism, and a member of the Objectivist movement, for 50 years. I have seen conflicts arise and fade. I am learning that there is a proper procedure for outside individuals—those who are not directly involved—to approach these conflicts. Part of that procedure consists of asking and answering these questions: 

(1) Exactly what is the type of conflict? Is it philosophical, personal, something else, or a combination?

(2) Exactly what is the issue in dispute? If there are several issues, in what order should I resolve them?

(3) Is all the evidence available that I need in order to make a decision about which side, if either, to support?

(4) If any, what is my stake in this conflict? How does it affect my pursuit of my lifetime philosophical and personal values?

(5) Do I need to make a decision now or at any time? If so, why?

(6) If I do decide to investigate a dispute and if I uncover enough information to form a judgment, should I take a stand (which entails time and effort to formulate, present and defend), either in private or in public?

The main lesson I have learned is to wait until I can answer such questions with confidence. A secondary lesson is that Objectivism (which is a fixed set of ideas) remains unchanged no matter what happens in the Objectivist movement. (For my understanding of "movement," see )

What other approach would you suggest?

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, here

P. S. — Thank you to Pooja Gupta for suggesting Question 6. Thank you to Rohin Gupta for reminding me to make this available on the internet and not merely on Facebook (published as a note three years ago).