|Type||Right-to-die, assisted suicide|
|Headquarters||Santa Monica, California; Los Angeles, California; Eugene, Oregon; combined Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado|
|Derek Humphry, Ann Wickett Humphry, Gerald A. Larue, Faye Girsh|
|Part of a series on|
The Hemlock Society (sometimes called Hemlock Society USA) was an American right-to-die and assisted suicide advocacy organization which existed from 1980 to 2003. It was co-founded in Santa Monica, California by British author and activist Derek Humphry, his wife Ann Wickett Humphry (1942-1991), and Gerald A. Larue. It relocated to Oregon in 1988 and, according to Humphry, had several homes over the course of its life.[unreliable source?] The group took its name from Conium maculatum, a highly poisonous biennial herbaceous flowering plant in the carrot family. The name was a direct reference to the method by which the Athenian philosopher Socrates took his life in 399 B.C., as described in Plato's Phaedo.[unreliable source?]
The Hemlock Society's primary mission included providing information to the dying and supporting legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide. Its motto was "Good Life, Good Death". In 2003, the national organization renamed itself End of Life Choices. In 2004, some former members of the Hemlock Society, notably Derek Humphry and Faye Girsh, founded the Final Exit Network.[self-published source] It took its name from Humphry's 1991 book of the same name. In 2003, the Hemlock Society changed its name to End-of-Life Choices. In 2004, End-of-Life Choices merged with Compassion in Dying, which is now known as Compassion and Choices.[unreliable source?] Several local and state organizations, including the Hemlock Society of Florida and the Hemlock Society of San Diego, have retained the Hemlock Society name. Others, such as the Hemlock Society of Illinois (now Final Options Illinois) have changed their names.[better source needed]
According to former president Faye Girsh, the Hemlock Society was founded in 1980 and was named in reference to Socrates' decision to end his life by drinking hemlock rather than succumbing to an existence he found intolerable. In the fifth century B.C., Socrates was convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens by encouraging ideas seen as contrary to the Athenian regime. Though he was sentenced to death, Socrates could have chosen exile, but chose death, an act seen as dignified and noble by many supporters of assisted suicide.
Earlier right-to-die advocacy organizations, such as the Euthanasia Educational Council (which formed in 1967 and changed its name to Concern For Dying in 1978), predated the Hemlock Society.
The Hemlock Society was started in 1980 after the success of Derek Humphry's book Jean's Way (1978), which recounted how Humphry assisted his wife in committing suicide on 29 March 1975 after a long battle with cancer.[failed verification] Due to the success of Jean's Way, Humphry had received many letters from people asking for information about assisted suicide. He decided to start the Hemlock Society in an effort to campaign for a change in law and educate the terminally ill on assisted suicide and its methods.[unreliable source?] Initially started in Humphry's garage in Santa Monica, California, the group eventually moved to Eugene, Oregon and had many other homes.[unreliable source?]
Let Me Die Before I Wake, Humphry's book on the methods of assisted suicide, was originally published for members of the Hemlock Society. Due to library and trade demand, the book was published for the market in 1982 and became part of the foundation for the Hemlock Society's reputation and income.[unreliable source?] In 1991, Humphry published Final Exit, subtitled "The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying". The book was a bestseller, though there were calls for it to be banned. After the success of Final Exit, Humphry left the Hemlock Society and started Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization in 1992.[unreliable source?]
The Society's national membership grew to include 40,000 individuals and eighty chapters.
Past Hemlock Society USA presidents included Gerald A. Larue, Derek Humphry, Sidney D. Rosoff, Wiley Morrison, Arthur Metcalfe, John Westover, Faye J. Girsh. Past executive directors included Derek Humphry (acting 1980–1992), Cheryl K. Smith (1992–1993), John A. Pridonoff (1993–1995), Helen Voorhis (acting 1995–1996), and Faye J. Girsh (1996–2000).
In the media
In the 2010 television film You Don’t Know Jack, which dramatizes the activism of former Oakland County, Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian, fellow activist Janet Good (played by Susan Sarandon) meets Kevorkian (played by Al Pacino) during a meeting of the eastern Michigan chapter of the Hemlock Society which Good has organized. Good later offers to let Kevorkian use her home as the location of the assisted suicide of his first patient, Janet Adkins, but later withdraws the offer because her husband Ray, a former member of the Detroit Police Department, questions the legality of assisted suicide in the state. It forces Kevorkian to use his Volkswagen camper van instead. Good is later stricken with pancreatic cancer and, on August 26, 1997, becomes Kevorkian’s 82nd patient. Oakland County deputy medical examiner Kanu Virani, however, later said Good did not have cancer.[unreliable source?]
- Compassion & Choices
- Oregon Death with Dignity Act
- Right to Die
- World Federation of Right to Die Societies
- "Ann Wickett Humphry (1942-1991) - Find A Grave-gedenkplek".
- Humphry, Derek (21 February 2005). "Farewell to Hemlock- Killed by its Name". Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO). Retrieved 10 November 2019.
- Call, JODI DUCKETT, The Morning. "FINAL CHOICES HEMLOCK SOCIETY BACKERS BELIEVE IN THE RIGHT TO A GOOD DEATH". themorningcall.com.
- "The Hemlock Society I Compassion & Choices I Final Exit Network". www.finalexitnetwork.org.
- "Final Exit, 3rd Edition v.3.1 (paperback)". www.finalexit.org.
- Patients Rights Council (2013). "Facts about Hemlock and Caring Friends". Patients Rights Council. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
- "Hemlock Society of San Diego – Good Life, Good Death".
- "Final Options Illinois - Home - Information on Aid In Dying". Final Options Illinois.
- Girsh, Faye. "The Hemlock Story in Brief" (PDF). hemlocksocietysandiego.org/brief.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
- "News and notes". Death Education. 2 (4): 433–437. 1978. doi:10.1080/07481187908253325.
- Humphry, Derek; Wickett, Ann (1978). Jean's Way. New York: Quartet Books. p. 113.
- Humphry, Derek (2 January 2019). "About Derek Humphry". Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization (ERGO). Retrieved 10 November 2019.
- Altman, Lawrence K. (9 August 1991). "How-To Book on Suicide Is Atop Best-Seller List". The New York Times – via The New York Times Archive.
- Stout, David (August 27, 1997). "Janet Good, 73; Advocated the Right to Die". The New York Times.
- "Janet Good found not to have terminal cancer". www.euthanasia.com.
- Colt, George Howe (1991). The Enigma of Suicide. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 978-0671509965.
- Côté, Richard N (2008). In search of gentle death : the fight for your right to die with dignity. Mt. Pleasant, S.C.: Corinthian Books. ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9.
- Cox, Donald W. (April 1, 1993). Hemlock's Cup: The Struggle for Death With Dignity (First ed.). Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0879758080.
- Dowbiggin, Ian (2003). A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in America. Oxford England; New York, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198035152.
- Filene, Peter G. (1998). In The Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America. Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-56663-188-4.
- Glick, Henry R. (1992). The Right to Die: Policy Innovation and Its Consequences. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-07638-8.
- Hillyard, Daniel; Dombrink, John (2001). Dying Right: The Death With Dignity Movement. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415927987.
- Farewell to Hemlock: Killed by its name, an essay by Derek Humphry 21 February 2005
- Humphry, Derek (2008). Good Life, Good Death - Memoir of a writer who became a euthanasia advocate. Junction City, Oregon: Norris Lane Press. ISBN 9780976828334.
- Putnam, Constance E. (2002). Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 978-0897899215.
- Wanzer, Sidney, MD; Glenmullen, Joseph, MD (2007). To Die Well. Your Right to Comfort, Calm and Choices in the Last Days of Your Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Lifelong Books/Da Capo Press, Merloyd Lawrence. ISBN 978-0-7382-1083-4.