Ann’s Final Exit

In suicide cases nowadays, police often find a book lying beside the body. It's Final Exit, a best-seller by Derek Humphry giving practical instructions on how to kill yourself. A few months ago a body was found under a tree in the mountains of Oregon. It was an attractive blond woman who, like the others, had committed suicide by following Derek Humphry's instructions. It was Derek Humphry's former wife. Ann Humphry married Derek a year after his first wife committed suicide. Together they founded the Hemlock Society, which campaigns for the legalization of euthanasia. Together they assisted in the double suicide of Ann's aged parents, feeding them a fatal dose of barbiturates mixed in applesauce. Together they fought for what they saw as the "right" to die. But Ann was diagnosed as having cancer--and suddenly they were no longer together. Derek decided he wasn't interested in standing by Ann through her illness. He insinuated that if she got any worse, he'd be very relieved if she would take the course of his first wife and commit suicide. And suddenly Ann realized that the so-called right to die--which she herself had championed so long--can easily turn into a pressure to die. In a videotape filmed right before her death, Ann reveals the darker side of euthanasia. She says her husband never encouraged her to stay in there and fight the cancer. Instead, his attitude was, get out of the way as quickly as possible. The videotape uncovers other disturbing facts, too--for example, that the suicide of Ann's mother was not entirely voluntary. Ann says her mother wasn't really "ready to die." But "she felt pressure" from her husband, who was 14 years older, until she finally went along with the double suicide. Even more disturbing, the videotape reveals that both Ann and Derek sometimes helped a suicide along. For example, when her mother started choking, Ann held a plastic laundry bag over her mouth until she died. Ann says when they left the house, she thought to herself, We're both murderers. The tactic she used on her mother was one Derek taught her. Derek's first wife had suffered from cancer, too, and agreed to kill herself by drinking a cup of coffee laced with barbiturates. But she began to regurgitate the poison, Ann says. So Derek took a pillow and smothered her. Derek Humphry denies the accusation. Perhaps it is the courts who will have to decide who is telling the truth on that one. Still, there is enough in Ann Humphry's videotape to make it clear to everyone that assisted suicide can easily turn into coerced suicide. We're sometimes told that sick people commit suicide to get relief from their misery. But statistically, that's not the case. The main supporters of assisted suicide are not those who suffer but those who watch them suffer--and who are worried about the responsibility and cost of taking care of them. People like Derek Humphry. For the next few years, the push will be on for legalized euthanasia. It almost passed in Washington last year. The argument will be couched in terms of mercy and compassion--and, of course, that most venerated of all American virtues: choice. But don't be taken in. Remember that Ann Humphry, if she were still around, would call it what it really is: Murder.


Chuck Colson


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