Exit (right-to-die organisation)

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Exit (Scotland UK) weblogo.gif
MottoEnabling choice and a dignified death
Formation1980; 39 years ago (1980)

Exit is a not-for-profit, pro-euthanasia organisation based in Scotland that lobbies for and provides information about voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. It has particularly focused on research and publication of works which provide information about suicide methods, including How to Die With Dignity, the first book published on the subject.


Exit was formed in 1980 in Scotland to research and publish information on suicide for people suffering from serious illness. Originally part of a UK Society formed in 1935, it broke away when the parent group vacillated over producing such guidance.[1]

In 1980,[2] as Scottish Exit, it published the first[3][4][5] suicide guide in the world, How to Die With Dignity by Dr George Mair.[6] Other suicide books by authors around the world soon followed.[7] The Society was originally called Scottish Exit, a branch of a parent London society. When the parent group's plans to publish such a book were delayed, the Scottish group formed an independent society dedicated to such publications.[8] During its history, it has also been known as The Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Scotland, or the Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society,[9] reverting to the name of Exit in 2000.[10]

How to Die With Dignity was followed by various supplements as new information became available. In 1993, authors CK Smith and CG Docker collaborated on a new book, Departing Drugs, distinguished by extensive literature searches into various drugs, and peer review. They convened the International Drugs Consensus Working Party, an unpaid research collective,[11][12] to help sift the evidence and finalize their results. The book was published in several languages as a non-profit venture and distributed privately by Dutch, Spanish, German, Canadian and American organisations.[13] Initial legal uncertainties and concerns about adverse publicity however persuaded Exit to release it in Scotland only under the title of a new 'Supplement' to How to Die With Dignity. Docker & Smith's technical data in support of Departing Drugs was published in a separate volume called Beyond Final Exit, with another contributing author, Bruce Dunn, whose chapter on inert gases laid the foundations for the 'helium method' of suicide.[14]

In 2007 a major revision was needed and Exit published Five Last Acts, a larger book (187 pages) that detailed the use of helium and four other main methods of rational suicide, most of which were not covered in Departing Drugs. A similar methodology was used, examining the science behind its assertions. The Five Last Acts series is distinguished by footnotes and citations to evidence. Although the first edition was made available only to members of Exit and other right-to-die societies under strict conditions, such distribution methods were augmented in subsequent editions by placing these more substantial books on general release. Five Last Acts II followed in 2010,[15] and Five Last Acts - The Exit Path in 2013.[16] A major update to the latter was released in May 2015 after concerns had been raised over helium balloon gas being diluted with air by some manufacturers.[17][18] Exit then published the world's first guide to using welding gas nitrogen as an alternative.[19]

Exit worked for the acceptance of the living will (Advance health care directive), initially advocating a living will using a Scottish legal instrument known as the Tutor Dative,[20] and then revising its templates in accordance with developing legislation and the use of Values Histories.[21] Exit highlights both the benefits and shortcomings of advance health care directives[22] and has sought to establish proper understanding by means of contributing chapters in both the academic[23] and legal[24] press. Exit's Director, Chris Docker, has worked for the organisation since 1980. He holds a post-graduate degree from Glasgow University and has lectured at undergraduate and post-graduate level, also writing on end-of-life issues for academic students (Dartmouth),[25][26] and the legal profession,[27] and winning an award for his research into death by refusing food and liquids.


Exit uses the Carver Model of Policy Governance[28] in the running of its affairs to ensure strict adherence to its aims. Exit accepts members worldwide. It publishes a substantial magazine, Exit Newsletter, with updates on self-deliverance and living wills, and a mixture of academic and light-reading articles on these subjects. Contributors have included well-known names including Peter Singer, Helga Kuhse, Colin Brewer, Faye Girsh, Sheila McLean, Michael Irwin, Derek Humphry, Arthur Caplan, Kenyon Mason, Ludovic Kennedy, Rev. A Bennett, Alexander McCall Smith, John Beloff, (Bishop) Michael Hare Duke, Oswald Hanfling, Wendy Savage, (Bishop) Alastair Haggart, Philip Nitschke, Janet Radcliffe Richards and Robin Downie.[29] It conducts full-day hands-on workshops for members.[30] Exit works within existing law so does not engage in civil disobedience or one-one-one direct assistance in suicide. Exit is independent and not connected with other organisations of the same or similar name, such as the Australian group, Exit International; the Finnish group, Exitus; the Italian group called Exit, or the two German Groups, Exit ADMD and EXIT-Deutsche Schweiz) but networks with scientific groups and its members worldwide.


Exit advocates a 'permissive' model for legal reform to allow 'exceptions to the rule' against euthanasia or assisted suicide.[31] It was involved in a major initiative of Glasgow University's Institute of Law & Ethics in Medicine[32] to look at the feasibility of a law on physician-assisted suicide for the UK.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kemp, N.D.A. (2002). Merciful release - the history of the British euthanasia movement. UK: Manchester University Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-0719061240.
  2. ^ Roberts C; Gorman M (1996). Euthanasia - a Reference Handbook. USA: ABC-Clio. p. 64.
  3. ^ Scherer, Jennifer (1999). Euthanasia and the Right to Die: A Comparative View. USA: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 9. ISBN 978-0847691678.
  4. ^ VES (ed.) (1992). Your Ultimate Choice. UK: Souvenir Press Ltd. p. 1028. ISBN 978-0285631014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Davies, Jean (1997). Choice in Dying - The Facts about Voluntary Euthanasia. UK: Ward Lock. p. 39. ISBN 978-0706375107.
  6. ^ Mair, George (1980). Dr. Scotland: Exit.
  7. ^ Dowbiggin, Ian (2005). A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine. USA: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 129. ISBN 9780742531109.
  8. ^ Côté, Richard (2012). In Search of Gentle Death. USA: Corinthian Books. p. 312. ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9.
  9. ^ McDougall, Jennifer (2008). Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook. USA: ABC-Clio, Inc. p. 221. ISBN 9781598841213.
  10. ^ "VESS Chronlogy". Euthanasia.cc. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Welcome to Exit (the Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society)". Euthanasia.cc. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  12. ^ Côté, Richard (2012). In Search of Gentle Death. USA: Corinthian Books. p. 313. ISBN 9781929175369.
  13. ^ Battin, Margaret (2005). Ending Life : Ethics and the Way We Die. New York: OUP. p. 54. ISBN 978-0195140279.
  14. ^ Hofsess (ed), John (1995). Beyond Final Exit. Right to Die Society of Canada. p. 65. ISBN 978-1896533049.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Docker, Chris (2010). Five Last Acts II. USA. ISBN 978-1453869376.
  16. ^ Docker, Chris (2013). Five Last Acts - The Exit Path. ISBN 978-1482594096.
  17. ^ "refers to a "helium-air mixture," and the manufacturer's FAQ states on their U.S. site stated that, "Our helium is rated from 98-99.99 percent pure. However, due to global helium supply issues, we are now mixing helium with air. All tanks will have 80 percent or more helium. This allows us to deliver a quality product at an affordable price."". Balloontime.com. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  18. ^ "FAQS". Balloontime.com. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  19. ^ Docker C, Five Last Acts – The Exit Path (2015), pages 179-206ISBN 9781512176445.
  20. ^ "The Voluntary Euthanasia view on the Living Will". October 12, 2009.
  21. ^ Scheunemann, LP; Arnold RM; White DB (Sep 15, 2012). "The facilitated values history: helping surrogates make authentic decisions for incapacitated patients with advanced illness". Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 186 (6): 480–486. doi:10.1164/rccm.201204-0710CP. PMC 3480534. PMID 22822020.
  22. ^ Docker, Chris (20 August 1999). "Problems with advance refusals". British Medical Journal.
  23. ^ McLean, Sheila (1996). Contemporary Issues in Law, Medicine and Ethics. England: Dartmouth. ISBN 978-1855215863.
  24. ^ Tolley's Finance and Law for the Older Client. UK: LexisNexis. 2002. p. G1. ISBN 978-0754502333.
  25. ^ "Contemporary Issues in Law, Medicine and Ethics (Medico-Legal Series): Amazon.co.uk: Professor Sheila A. M. McLean: 9781855215863: Books". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Death, Dying and the Law (Medico-Legal Series): Amazon.co.uk: Professor Sheila A. M. McLean: 9781855216570: Books". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  27. ^ "Finance and Law for the Older Client: Amazon.co.uk: Chris Whitehouse, Colin Russell, Margaret Richards, Julia Abrey: 9780754502333: Books".
  28. ^ "The Policy Governance® Model - an Overview". Carvergovernance.com. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  29. ^ "EXIT Newsletter". Euthanasia.cc. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  30. ^ [1][dead link]
  31. ^ "Assisted Suicide Act". Euthanasia.cc. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  32. ^ McLean, Sheila (1996). Sometimes a Small Victory. Scotland UK: Institute of Law & Ethics in Medicine, University of Glasgow. p. 1.
  33. ^ Otlowski, Margaret (1997). Voluntary Euthanasia and the Common Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 273. ISBN 978-0198259961.

External links[edit]