Derek Humphry

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Derek Humphry
Derek Humphry photo image (2012)
Derek Humphry in 2012
Born (1930-04-29) 29 April 1930 (age 92)
Bath, England
CitizenshipUnited States
Notable awardsMartin Luther King Memorial Prize (1972), Saba Prize (2000)

 Literature portal

Derek Humphry (born 29 April 1930) is a British-born American journalist and author notable as a proponent of legal assisted suicide and the right to die philosophy. In 1980, he co-founded the Hemlock Society and, in 2004, after that organization dissolved, he co-founded the Final Exit Network. From 1988 to 1990, he was president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies and is the current president of the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO).[1]

He is the author of several related books, including Jean's Way (1978), The Right to Die: Understanding Euthanasia (1986), and Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying (1991).

Since 1978, Derek Humphry has lived in the United States.

Early years[edit]

Born to a British father and an Irish mother, he was raised in Somerset. His education was slender because of a broken home followed by World War II, when many English schools were in chaos, finally leaving at the age of 15, when he became a messenger boy for the Yorkshire Post. In a 30-year journalistic career Humphry worked and wrote for the Bristol Evening World, the Manchester Evening News, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Times and, lastly, the Los Angeles Times.[2]

Personal life[edit]

His first wife, Jean Humphry, ended her life on 29 March 1975, in the Cotswolds with her husband at her side, with an intentional overdose of medication; she was suffering from terminal breast cancer. He told that story from his perspective in the best-selling Jean's Way. Derek and Jean Humphry had three sons, the youngest one an adoptee.

Humphry wrote the 1991 suicide handbook, Final Exit. From 1993 onwards Humphry has been president of the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO), and chairs the advisory board of the new Final Exit Network (formed 2004 to replace the Hemlock Society dissolved the previous year in mergers).

His marriage to his next wife, Ann Wickett, an American and a co-founder of the Hemlock Society, ended in 1989 when she filed for divorce; they had no children. Ann Wickett committed suicide, at the age of 49 on 2 October 1991, during a recurrence of depression. She had been battling breast cancer, but the cancer was in remission and she was not considered "terminally ill". In her suicide note, she claimed that Humphry was a "killer" and that his first wife, Jean, had died of suffocation.[3][4] He denied these allegations as groundless.[5]

In early 1990 Humphry married Gretchen Crocker, youngest daughter of an Oregon farming family.[6]


Humphry is an advisor to the World Federation of Right to Die Societies by virtue of his past presidency and in appreciation of his 26 years of involvement with that organization. Since it was founded in 2004, Humphry has been an adviser to the Final Exit Network. After four members of the organization were accused in Georgia of assisting a suicide[7] he launched the Final Exit Liberty Fund which paid most of their legal costs.

In 2014 Derek Humphry was given the World Federation of Right To Die Societies "Lifetime Achievement Award" for 'contributing so much, so long and so courageously to our right to a peaceful death. The award was presented by world president Faye Girsh at the 20th international conference in Chicago on 9/19/2014. It is the first time this award has been made.[8]

Books and publications[edit]

Humphry was newsletter editor for the World Federation of Right to Die Societies for a number of years.

As of 2016, the paperback Final Exit was in print in English, Spanish and Italian. It has sold more than one million copies in twelve languages since 1991. In April 2007 the editors and book critics of USA Today selected Final Exit as one of the most memorable 25 books of the last quarter century.[9] In 2017 he published his life story, Good Life, Good Death: The Memoir of a Right To Die Pioneer (Carrel Books, New York. ISBN 978-1631440663)

The film Nomadland, which won three Oscars in 2021, makes an error regarding Final Exit. One of the characters explains that she had small-cell lung cancer, that it had metastasized to her brain, and that her doctors have given her seven or eight months to live. Then she says, "I have this book called Final Exit by Dr. Kevorkian. Some people call him Dr. Death. It's like various ways that you can end your life if you need to. It's kind of like a recipe." The author of Final Exit is Humphry, not Dr. Kevorkian.

Derek Humphry bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the author", Extract from Final Exit – Digital edition 2007.
  2. ^ "Good Life, Good Death" Chapter 1, p. 7.
  3. ^ Good Life, Good Death: Memoir of an Investigative Reporter and Pro-choice Advocate, Chapter 12, p. 244 ("Breaking up").
  4. ^ New York Times report on Derek and Ann Humphry
  5. ^ Good Life, Good Death, Chapter 16, p. 82.
  6. ^ Good Life, Good Death: Memoir of an Investigative Reporter and Pro-choice Advocate, Chapter 18, p. 329.
  7. ^ Final Exit Network newsletter, Spring 2012.
  8. ^ World Right to Die Newsletter, Spring, 2015
  9. ^ "25 Books That Leave A Legacy". USA Today. 9 April 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  10. ^ Margaret Gay, "Humphry, Derek (1930–)", in Kathlyn Gay (ed.), American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 2012.
  • Curiosities of Literature, pp. 141, 248–249. By John Sutherland/ Arrow Books 2008.
  • NOTE: For a full and independent biography of Derek Humphry, see Current Biography, Volume 56, Number 3, March 1995
  • Derek Humphry's books, manuscripts, papers and documents are archived at Special Collections, Allen Library, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

External links[edit]