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The Hemlock Society USA was a national right-to-die organization founded in Santa Monica, California by Derek Humphry in 1980. Its primary missions included providing information to dying persons and supporting legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide. In 1992, following the publication of his book Final Exit, Derek Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society USA. In 2003 the national organization renamed itself, and a year later merged with another group into a newly formed national organization called Compassion & Choices. A number of unaffiliated local organizations continue to operate under variants of the Hemlock Society name. A film of the same name has also been made.
- 1 Current Hemlock Societies and related organizations
- 2 Hemlock mission
- 3 History/chronology
- 4 Past leaders of the Hemlock Society
- 5 Quotes
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In the USA (2009) three independent Hemlock Society groups are operating:
All are former chapters of the Hemlock Society USA which ceased to exist after a controversial name change to End Of Life Choices on June 13, 2003, and then shortly thereafter, a merger with Compassion in Dying and consolidating on the name Compassion and Choices.
The original Hemlock was founded in 1980 by Derek Humphry in his garage in Santa Monica, California, when he received a huge response to his memoir Jean's Way, his account of helping his reportedly terminally ill wife take her own life in 1975.
Hemlock's mission was to both: (a) provide information to dying persons who were currently considering hastening their ends; (b) to pass legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide with accompanying guidelines to prevent abuse. Hemlock was the first such organization in America; previous groups had campaigned only for the greater use of the Living Will. The name "Hemlock" was selected in the light of the suicide of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates who had to choose between sentences of death or unlawful escape into exile; after debate with his colleagues, and unable to bear the indignity of escape from the ruling law of his homeland, he, at the government's order, imbibed a drink laced with the hemlock plant. It was Socrates's careful consideration of his choices that inspired the American organization.
Hemlock was a founding charter member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies when the international organization initiated in 1980 in Oxford, England, by Sidney D. Rosoff and Derek Humphry. Hemlock's national membership grew to 40,000 with eighty chapters. In 1988, Hemlock hosted in San Francisco the 7th biennial conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies.
In 1998, the Hemlock Society formed a side group called 'Caring Friends' which provided its members with support and guidance, nationwide, if they were terminally ill and asking for help to die. Its principal founders were Dr. Richard MacDonald, Hemlock's medical director, Faye Girsh, executive director, Wye Hale-Rowe and Lois Schafer, staff members. Strict guidelines were put in place to protect Caring Friends from legal problems, and it had none. (In 2005 'Caring Friends' was renamed 'Client Services' by Compassion and Choices). In 2000, Hemlock staged in Boston the 10th international conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, which was attended by 483 people and had 66 speakers.
Hemlock backed legislative efforts in California, Washington, Michigan, and Maine without success until the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was passed in 1994. Hemlock infused (under IRS rules) a total of $992,210 on six campaigns.
Final Exit and Hemlock Society
In 1991, Humphry wrote the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. At first, commercial publishers refused to publish Final Exit so Hemlock self-published it in hardback. Within months it made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It was one of the few self-published books ever to hit the bestseller list, earning Hemlock over one million dollars net. In 1992 Random House took over publishing the paperback. In 1992, Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society USA and later formed Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization ERGO Assisted suicide#Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)ERGO.
Renamed EOLC and merger to form C&C
On June 13, 2003, The Hemlock Society USA name was changed to End Of Life Choices. Soon after the name change, EOLC merged with (was taken over by) Compassion in Dying. The merge/take-over process was publicly announced on June 20, 2004, as an "intent to unify". The merged organization began operating officially in January 2005 under a new name, Compassion and Choices.
The Gladd Group
Another Hemlock offshoot is The Gladd Group, founded in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, California by Sharlotte Hydorn (born 1919 or 1920), who met Humphry after the death of her husband, and joined the Hemlock Society.[when?] In May 2011, the FBI raided Mrs. Hydorn's home and shut GLADD down. She was making and selling helium hood kits worldwide. Subsequently, no criminal charges were filed and Mrs. Hydorn agreed to stop manufacture and plead guilty to failing to make income tax returns.
Hemlock Society leaders and members form Final Exit Network
After Hemlock ceased to exist in 2004, some members of Hemlock's leadership formed the Final Exit Network to continue its mission. Hemlock chapters in Florida, Illinois and the San Diego, California area continue their mission of helping people understand what is involved in accelerating one's end, and pushing for legislation. These chapters cooperate with – but are not an official part of – the national Final Exit Network which provides informational guidance.
Past leaders of the Hemlock Society
Hemlock Society USA Presidents:
- Gerald A Larue
- Derek Humphry
- Sidney D Rosoff
- Wiley Morrison
- Arthur Metcalfe
- John Westover
- Faye J Girsh
- Derek Humphry (1980–1992)
- John A Pridonoff (1993–1995)
- Faye J Girsh (1996–2000)
- "In the United States, the Hemlock Society alone had grown to 57,000 paid members with eighty-six chapters. And for every paying members, there were a hundred more people who shared the same beliefs. The self-deliverance genie had been forever freed from its bottle and had taken on a robust, self-sustaining life of its own."
- "Whatever downside there may be to Hemlock, if claims of being open to dialogue and striving for tolerance are justified on this side of the divide, the negatives may well be outweighed by the positives."
- "Those who have some indecision may have benefited from remarks by Bishop John Shelby Spong in a keynote address to the Hemlock Society USA conference in San Diego on January 10, 2003."
- "When the votes [in California] were counted after the November 3, 1992 election, Initiative #161 had failed to pass by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. Although the narrow defeat marked a temporary setback for Hemlock Society USA and its supporters, the fact that 5,500,000 voters had marked yes on their ballots was encouraging for the future."
- "Early in 1986 the Hemlock Society, then based in California, proposed amendments to the 1976 [Living Will] law that would have included 'aid in dying' and it urged [Senator] Keene to include it in a revised bill. He declined."
- "On the other side of the battle line, the coalition [for California Prop. #161] included numerous Protestant denominations, organized labor, the state Democratic party, AIDS activists, the Grey Panthers, and, of course, the Hemlock Society."
|This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (June 2011)|
- Farewell to Hemlock: Killed by its name, an essay by Derek Humphry
- Daniel Hillyard and John Dombrink, Dying Right: The Death With Dignity Movement, Routledge, 2001
- Constance E. Putnam, Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion. Praeger, 2002
- Ian Dowbiggin, A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in America, OUP, 2003
- George Howe Colt, The Enigma of Suicide, Summit Books, 1991.
- Donald W. Cox, Hemlock’s Cup: The Struggle for Death With Dignity. Prometheus Books, 1993
- Derek Humphry, Good Life, Good Death - Memoir. Norris Lane Press, 2008; ISBN 9780976828334
- Compassion and Choices
- Final Exit Network
- Final Exit
- World Federation of Right to Die Societies
- Jean's Way
- Assisted suicide
- Euthanasia and the law
- Right to Die
- Suicide bag
- Oregon Death with Dignity Act
- ERGO - Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization
- Plato, Crito, section 50-54, cited in Norman Melchert, The Great Conversation, 4th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2002, p.107
- Plato, Phaedo (Death Scene), section 117c, cited in Norman Melchert, The Great Conversation, 4th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2002, p. 115
- Timelines (Hemlock Society newsletter), Fall 2000, #85
- Derek Humphry, Good Life, Good Death - Memoir, pg. 269, Norris Lane Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9768283-3-4
- Richard N Cote, In Search of Gentle Death, Corinthian Books, 2008, Page 6, ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9
- Constance E. Putnam, Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion, Praeger, 2002, pg. 51; ISBN 0-89789-921-0
- Sidney Wanzer MD and Joseph Glenmullen MD, To Die Well. Your Right to Comfort, Calm and Choices in the Last Days of Your Life, Merloyd Lawrence, 2007, pg. 85; ISBN 0-7382-1083-8
- Donald Cox, Hemlock's Cup: The Struggle for Death with Dignity, Prometheus Books, 1993, pg. 178; ISBN 0-87975-808-2
- Henry R. Glick, The Right to Die: Policy Innovation and Its Consequences, Columbia University Press, 1992, pg. 103; ISBN 0-231-07638-X
- Peter G. Filene, In The Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America, Ivan R. Dee, 1998, pg. 196; ISBN 1-56663-188-2
- Hemlock Society of San Diego
- Hemlock Foundation of Florida Inc.
- Compassion and Choices
- Final Exit Network
- FinalExit.org - Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)