Final Options Illinois

Articles, Books and Links

About Aid in Dying | The Groups | The Laws | Calendar | A Good Death | Important Paperwork | Articles and Links | Blog | Contribute | Home

updated March 18, 2017

Final Options Illinois
815-366-7942 or 224-565-1500
1055 W. Bryn Mawr #F212
Chicago IL 60660-4692
info@finaloptionsillinois.org
Twitter: @FinalOptionsIL
Final Options Illinois on YouTube

Illinois End of Life Options Coalition
www.illinoisoptions.org
And on Facebook

Compassion and Choices
800-247-7421
www.compassionandchoices.org

Death With Dignity National Center
www.deathwithdignity.org

Final Exit Network
866-654-9156
www.finalexitnetwork.org

ERGO -- website of Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphry
www.finalexit.org

Dying With Dignity Canada
www.dyingwithdignity.ca

Documents, books and links ...

Final Options Illinois -- our YouTube channel
Aid in dying is not just an abstract concept.  There are many people here in Illinois, terminally ill and suffering intolerably, who need the CHOICE that the Illinois Patient Choice at End of Life Act will provide.  And there many people whose loved ones have suffered agonizing deaths because Illinois doesn't have such a law.  Our YouTube channel presents some of their stories.

Final Options Illinois -- ad for March 11 2017 showing of "How To Die In Oregon"
A quarter-page ad, explaining what aid in dying is and why it is so important, and advertising one of our screenings of the wonderful film "How To Die In Oregon," appearing in the Rockford Register-Star on March 7.  Typical of the ads we've been running.

Final Options Illinois -- February 2017 mailing
With information about Judge Neil Gorsuch and how he is clearly unqualified and unfit for the US Supreme Court.  Announcing Final Options Illinois Action, reporting on the new Washington DC aid in dying law going into effect, and with flyers for our March 20 coalition event "Truth In Treatment" and two more showings of "How To Die In Oregon."

Final Options Illinois -- January 2017 newsletter
With the news from Colorado, where aid in dying legislation was approved on Nov. 8 by nearly two-thirds of voters, and from Washington DC, where aid in dying was passed by the DC City Council by an eleven to two majority and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser on Dec 19.  Featuring a review of Diane Rehm's new book "On My Own".

Final Options Illinois -- August 2016 newsletter
With the news that aid in dying has gone live in California and all across Canada, with an extended analysis of the groundbreaking Canadian law plus the beautifully said preamble to the Canadian law, and with the Op-Ed piece by Chicagoan Miguel Carrasquillo published in the Chicago Tribune on April 15, 2016

Final Options Illinois -- January 2016 newsletter
With the great news that California Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act, and that the Quebec aid-in-dying law has gone into effect, and with an extended article about California by George Eighmey, President of the Death With Dignity National Center

Final Options Illinois -- October 2015 newsletter
Featuring articles on the California End of Life Option Act and on the tremendous outpouring of public support for aid-in-dying

Final Options Illinois -- July 2015 flyer
"We're All Going To Die -- The Question is How?"  Explains death with dignity -- what it's about, our draft bill, all in two easy pages.

Final Options Illinois -- How To Advocate for Aid In Dying
A nine-page summary of how to advocate for our cause, what to say, how to respond to opponents, best ways to convince your friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues (January 2017)

Final Options Illinois -- Death With Dignity -- What You Can Do
A brief description of the many ways that each of us can contribute to advancing this vitally important cause (June 2015)

Hemlock of Illinois -- "It's Really Very Simple"
A flyer included with our November 2014 newsletter

Hemlock of Illinois -- our latest June 2015 newsletter
Featuring news from Canada, California and New York

Hemlock of Illinois -- our November 2014 newsletter
Featuring reviews of the new book "Being Mortal", by Atul Gawande, and advertising our December events

Hemlock of Illinois -- our March 2014 newsletter
Featuring the article "John Ashcroft Made An Activist Out of Me", by Hemlock of Illinois board member Ken Leonard

Hemlock of Illinois -- our November 2013 newsletter
Featuring the article "Death With Dignity -- What It Is, and What It's Not", plus a review of the book "In Search of Gentle Death -- The Fight For Your Right To Die With Dignity"

A Doctor's View of Death With Dignity
Transcript of the program sponsored by Hemlock of Illinois, in Chicago on December 8, 2013.  Featuring Dr. Daniel Samo, Dr. Dan Fintel, and Dr. Jorge del Castillo.  Here's the flyer for the program.  And you can listen to the complete program:
-- Part 1 -- Introduction and first part of the panel discussion -- about 51 minutes
-- Part 2 -- Second half of the panel, and questions and discussion -- about 53 minutes
(Click on the link to play the mp3 file right in your browser, or point to it, click your right-mouse button, and select "Save target as" or "Save link as".  Then you can save the file to your computer and double-click on it to open it in any music player such as Windows Media Player or Apple iTunes.)

A principled conservatism supports the right to aid-in-dying
New York Times, October 19, 2014.  A letter by Hemlock of Illinois president Ed Gogol, pointing out the growth of the worldwide movement for death with dignity, and urging conservatives to support the right to aid-in-dying.

Chicago hosting right-to-die event -- Advocating for 'most graceful ending'
Chicago Tribune, September 17, 2014, by Bonnie Rubin.  Powerful article about the conference of the World Federation of Right-To-Die Societies and our campaign to pass an Oregon-style aid-in-dying bill in Illinois.  With quotes from Hemlock of Illinois members Deborah Landis and Lynn Lawson, and a powerful three-minute video interview with Lynn Lawson and her husband Court.

Is Dying a Pro-Choice Issue?  The Right-To-Die Movement Gains National Attention
Cover article in The Humanist issue of January/February 2015 by Tone Stockenstrom, about the World Federation Conference held in Chicago in September 2014.  With extensive quotes from Hemlock of Illinois president Ed Gogol, Hemlock of Illinois members Lynn and Court Lawson, author Derek Humphry, senior medical director for Final Exit Network Dr. Richard MacDonald, Canadian legislator Veronique Hivon, Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown South Africa Desmond Tutu, and South African activist Sean Davison.  One of the best quotes:  "'The worldwide death-with-dignity movement is rapidly growing because increasing numbers of people believe that being able to control your own death is the ultimate human right', said conference attendee Ed Gogol, a member of the American Humanist Association and the president of Hemlock of Illinois (an independent affiliate of the Final Exit Network).  'Mentally competent adults who are suffering intolerably have a basic human right at the end of life to choose a peaceful, dignified and pain-free death.'"  Also see the Editor's Note:  A Watershed Moment for Death With Dignity, by editor-in-chief Jennifer Bardi.

A Better Way Out
An extremely important article by the famed physician Dr. Marcia Angell, senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.  In the New York Review of Books, issue of January 8, 2015.  A detailed review of the the book Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End, and discusses the limitations of Gawande's book on the subject of aid-in-dying.  Decisively refutes Gawande's concern that aid-in-dying might become a substitute for palliative care, and uses the death of her husband, the famed physician Dr. Arnold Relman, of an example of how horrible the end of life can be.  "The last four days of his life were, rather abruptly, unspeakably difficult...I see no reason why my husband, and the people who loved him, had to endure those last days...There is no doubt in my mind that hospice is the best option for helping dying patients during their last months, but I am not at all sure it is adequate for the death itself...I have long supported physician-assisted dying (and was a lead petitioner in getting a Death with Dignity Act put on the Massachusetts ballot.)  More than ever, I believe dying patients should have that choice.  But after my husband's death, I have come to favor euthanasia as well, for home hospice patients in the final, agonal stage of dying, who can no longer ingest medication orally.  These patients are usually no longer mentally clear enough to give contemporaneous consent, but if they have earlier made it known that this is what they would wish, I believe that a duly appointed proxy should be able to have that wish carried out."

See also the main page for Dr. Angell's writings in the New York Review of Books, and her articles May Doctors Help You to Die? (October 11, 2012) and The Right To Death (November 8, 2012, decisively refuting allegations against the Oregon law).

Offering a Choice to the Terminally Ill
The New York Times, Sunday March 15, 2015.  In its lead editorial, our nation's most prestigious newspaper makes clear that it supports the passage of aid-in-dying laws.  Describes "how successfully and responsibly the law has been carried out in Oregon", and notes the law's "layers of safeguards."  Quotes Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices:  "Making a secret process transparent makes it safer."

Stigma Around Physician-Assisted Dying Lingers
The New York Times, a column by Floyd Haberman, March 22, 2015.  Interesting column about the history of the aid in dying movement, written at the height of the ultimately successful campaign for the California law.  Quotes Dr. Marcia Angell, former executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, criticizing the AMA's opposition to physician aid in dying:  It "focuses too much on the physician, and not enough on the patient."  Writing in the New York Review of Books in 2012, Dr. Angell asked, "Why should anyone -- the state, the medical profession, or anyone else -- presume to tell someone else how much suffering they must endure as their life is ending?"

Most U.S. Doctors Now Support Aid-In-Dying:  Survey
NBC News, December 16, 2014.  Reports the results of the latest survey of 21,000 US physicians by Medscape, showing that for the first time a clear majority -- 56% -- support physician aid-in-dying, up ten percentage points in only four years.  The percentage opposed dropped ten percentage points in four years, down to 31%.  Quotes famed medical ethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University:  "It represents a remarkable shift.  If physician opposition continues to weaken, it is likely that despite fierce resistance from some religious groups and some in the disability community, more states will follow Oregon, Washington and Vermont and legalize."
Here's the link to the full survey at Medscape.

New Jersey's New Bill May Indicate Changing Views Toward 'Death With Dignity'
By Annamarya Scaccia, December 4, 2014, on the website of RH Reality Check -- Reproductive and Social Health & Justice.  Discusses the new bill which passed one house of the New Jersey legislative in November, prospects for death with dignity legislation, explores the links between opposition to aid-in-dying and opponents of the right to abortion.  With quotes from Death With Dignity National Center president Peg Sandeen and Hemlock of Illinois president Ed Gogol: "...there has been little discussion about the intersection of 'death with dignity' and feminism.  Yet, agreed Sandeen and Gogol, both movements are deeply intertwined in doctrine and opposition because of what's at its core:  choice.  'The essential component of a civilized society is the right to control your own body,' Gogol told RH Reality Check.  'It's exactly analogous.'  Ultimately, the experts say, having the legal right to choose when and how you die when you're terminally ill is akin to having the legal rigt to control one's reproductive choices -- and when and how to build a family.  Considering this similarity, they say, aid in dying and broader end in life care should be a banner picked up by the feminist movement."

At the Movies With The Right-To-Die Society
Chicago Lawyer, November 2014, by Roy Strom.  Comprehensive article about our cause, about Hemlock of Illinois, and the death with dignity law we've drafted for Illinois, focused on the September 2014 World Federation Conference held in Chicago.  With quotes from Derek Humphry, Hemlock of Illinois president Ed Gogol, executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center Kathryn Tucker, famed Chicago attorney Fay Clayton, and ACLU legislative counsel Khadine Bennett.

Quebec passes landmark end-of-life-care bill
Canadian Broadcasting Co., June 5, 2014.  An tremendous victory for death with dignity, the bill passed with an overwhelming 94 to 22 majority.  "Sometimes when you are suffering in pain, one hour can feel like one week...The protection of the vulnerable is reflected in every aspect of this bill," said Parti Quebecois member of the National Assembly Veronique Hivon, who drafted the bill.
For the full text of the bill...
For the full text of the March 2012 report of the Quebec legislature select committee on dying with dignity...

Canadian Supreme Court Says Yes to Aid-in-Dying in Some Cases
Canadian Broadcasting Co., February 6, 2015.  Reports the momentous and unanimous decision by the Canadian Supreme Court to declare that physician aid-in-dying is legal for terminally ill, irremediably suffering patients.  The video is especially worth watching.  Also see Canada Court Strikes Down Ban on Aiding Patient Suicide, in the February 6 New York Times.

Lawsuit Seeks to Legalize Doctor-Assisted Suicide for Terminally Ill Patients in New York
New York Times, February 3, 2015.  Reports on the lawsuit filed by terminally ill patients, their doctors (including the famed physician Dr. Timothy Quill), and End of Life Choices New York, to establish that prohibitions against "assisting in a suicide", do not apply to doctors in the context of aiding their terminally ill patients.

New Mexico Must Stand Strong and Allow Physician-Assisted Suicide
in Huffington Post, March 21, 2014, by Steve Siebold.  It's a mistake to refer to death with dignity as "suicide", but other than that this is a powerful and important piece.

Desmond Tutu:  A dignified death is our right -- I am in favor of assisted dying
in The Guardian, July 12, 2014.  An impassioned, profound and important statement by the famed Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Capetown South Africa, one of the world's truly great human beings.  Read this!

Also see Rev. Tutu's welcoming video to the delegates to the 2014 World Federation Conference, on the website of Dignity South Africa.

Desmond Tutu in the Washington Post:  "Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth"
in the Washington Post, October 6, 2016.  An updated profound statement by Nobel laureate archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Highly recommended.  He writes, "Just as I have argued firmly for fairness and compassion in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to the their deaths.  Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth.  I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death."

His concluding paragraph is especially relevant:  "In refusing people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values.  I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth.  The time to act is now."

We have to fight for the right to die
In Salon, March 19, 2014, by Mary Elizabeth Williams.  A powerful last letter from an ailing Canadian man makes the case for "relief."

'Aid in Dying' Movement Takes Hold in Some States
New York Times, February 8, 2014.  The lead article in the New York Times on that day, showcasing how our movement has come of age.  Focuses on the growing public support for death-with-dignity, and highlights Robert Mitton, suffering and near death in Colorado.  "I am facing my imminent death", he is quoted as saying, and asks why people in Montana and New Mexico "are able to die with dignity and I am not.  This should be a basic human right."  Be sure also to read Robert Mitton's blog at http://dying-with-dignity.blogspot.com/.

Death With Dignity Gaining Life
Chicago Tribune, December 11, 2013.  An interview with Dr. Daniel Samo of Chicago, who was one of the featured speakers at our program, "A Doctor's View of Death With Dignity", on December 8, 2013.

I Hope My Father Dies Soon
Scott Adams, the cartoonist and creator of Dilbert, rails on his blog against the evil of those who would vote against death with dignity laws.  Powerful stuff.  Published November 23, 2013.

Cartoonist's tirade poses serious questions about dying
Columnist Eric Zorn, in the Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2013, pondering Scott Adams' blog post.  "The issue isn't exactly front burner," writes Zorn.  "Until, of course, you or those you love become terminally ill, and then it's on full boil."

In Ill Doctor, a Surprise Reflection of Who Picks Assisted Suicide
New York Times, August 11, 2012.  Details the history of the death with dignity laws in Oregon and Washington, showing conclusively the benefits of these laws and that there is no "slippery slope" pushing anybody to end their lives prematurely.

Over My Dead Body:  Helping the terminally ill to die, once taboo, is gaining acceptance
The Economist, October 20, 2012.  An important and informative survey of growing acceptance of death with dignity, in Europe and the English-speaking world.  Debunks the "slippery slope" argument and has many statistics about death with dignity worldwide.  Check out the final section about the "Liverpool care pathway for the dying patient."

The Good Short Life -- by Dudley Clendinen
New York Times, July 9, 2011.  A moving and powerful article by the journalist and author, detailing his plans to make a final exit to avoid suffering through death by ALS.

The End -- by Nontheist
The Humanist, September/October 2013.  An incredibly moving and powerful description of one man's decision to make a final exit before descending into the depths of Alzheimer's, by his wife.

How Doctors Die -- In Coming to Grips With Their Own Mortality, They Are Showing the Way for Others
New York Times, November 20, 2013.  A portrayal of Dr. Elizabeth McKinley, suffering from advanced cancer, who chose to forego aggressive treatment in favor of a better quality of life in her remaining time.  Powerful and farsighted.
 
How Doctors Die
Ken Murray, MD, in the Saturday Evening Post, March/April 2013.  A profound statement of the importance of avoiding futile medical care at end of life -- care which only increases suffering -- and of the factors which give rise to these horrors.

Do Not Resuscitate:  What Young Doctors Would Choose
New York Times, May 20, 2014.  How an overwhelming percentage of doctors, even young ones, say they want no heroic measures at end-of-life.  Says one, about resuscitation:  "Doctors see a lot...you know too much, and you're much more way."
 
A Good Death:  How Boomers Will Change The World a Final Time -- by Dan Kadlec
Time Magazine, August 14, 2013.  Our movement goes mainstream.  "We are now seeing the beginnings of a broad movement that will change the game for good.  People are starting to think about aid-in-dying as the next civil rights movement.  Death with dignity is the final frontier of human rights and freedom of expression." 

Sunday Dialogue:  Choosing How We Die
New York Times, March 31, 2013.  A letter to the editor by Janice Lynch Schuster, followed by responses from Derek Humphry, Betty Rollin and others.  Some good and some not-so-good, but all worth reading.  Illustrates an important point:  we all have different viewpoints about end of life, but it is critical that mentally competent adults have the option to cut their suffering short should they choose to.

Do Not Resuscitate, Do Not Feel Remorse -- by Candy Schulman
Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2011.  The author describes her caregiving for her mother, suffering from advanced dementia.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep -- by Roger Ebert
from Roger Ebert's website, June 29, 2011.  The famed movie critic discusses assisted dying and explains why it should be legal.

Letting Go -- Exploring the flaws of American health care at the end of life -- by Abraham Verghese
New York Times, September 8, 2013.  A powerful review of the new book, Knocking On Heaven's Door:  The Path to a Better Way of Death, by Katy Butler.  Documents the suffering caused by aggressive but futile medical treatment at life's end, and posits a better way.  Recommended.

What Broke My Father's Heart -- by Katy Butler
New York Times Magazine, June 18, 2010.  One of the articles that served as the basis for Ms. Butler's powerful new book, about her father's suffering and her inability to get doctors to turn off her father's pacemaker when keeping it on was only prolonging his sufffering.

Vermont Passes 'Aid-in-Dying' Measure
New York Times, May 14, 2013.  The wonderful news when Vermont became the third state with an aid-in-dying law and the first to be passed by a state legislature.

One Piece of Health Reform:  Avoiding 'Bad' Deaths
New York Times, August 18, 2009.  Excellent article by Jane Brody about complex and difficult end-of-life choices.  "Most measures taken when patients are terminally ill, including the use of feeding tubes, ventilators and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, do nothing to prolong meaningful life.  Rather, as Dr. Jeff Gordon put it in the title of his new book, they represent 'A Death Prolonged.'"

Sherwin B. Nuland, 'How We Die' Author, Dies at 83
New York Times, March 5, 2014.  Obituary for Dr. Nuland, the author of the 1994 book How We Die, which "described in frank detail the processes by which life succumbs to violence, disease or old age."  As Dr. Nuland wrote, "The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives."

A 'Code Death' for Dying Patients
New York Times, April 10, 2014, by Dr. Jessica Zitter.  Describes sensible and compassionate procedures to ease the passing and comfort the families of dying patients in the intensive care unit.

Extend Death With Dignity Nationwide
Freethought Today, March 2014.  A profound column by Annie Laurie Gaylor, about "the inhumanity of our society toward the dying."  Highlights the vital importance of people knowing about the full range of end-of-life choices -- no one who is suffering intolerably should have to resort to violent means!  Final Exit Network can help!

Year's End a Good Time to Consider End-of-Life Plans
Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2013, by Barbara Brotman.  Excellent article on the importance of getting those advance-directives done.

Bill would add to end-of-life care
Chicago Tribune, June 14, 2014, by Barbara Brotman.  About the new bill just passed in Illinois strengthening and expanding the POLST (Physician's Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) program
 
Care Minister Normal Lamb backs assisted dying bill
From the BBC, July 17, 2014.  An interview with Normal Lamb, member of Parliament, who says he has "changed his mind", and now supports the passage of death-with-dignity law in the U.K.  He is quoted as saying, "I think there are very clear safeguards, the safeguards are absolutely critical, in a sense it was the fear of exploitation which always caused me concern in the past.  But ultimately, should we stand in the way of someone wanting to make their own decision about their life, or should we set the safeguards in place to ensure that there is every chance of avoiding that exploitation?  I'm very clear in my mind that the individual should be the person who decides, not the state."

Let The Dying Die! -- A U.K. cardiologist speaks up for healthcare's last taboo
By Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, August 1, 2014 -- an impassioned and profound piece.
 
Dead at noon:  B.C. woman ends her life rather than suffer indignity of dementia
Vancouver Sun, August 21, 2014, by Denise Ryan.  About Gillian Bennett, 85, descending into dementia after a long and happy life, choosing to hasten her death.  Moving and informative.  See especially her website dedicated to explaining her point of view at www.deadatnoon.com.

When Medicine is Futile
New York Times, September 9, 2014, by Barron H. Lerner, MD and professor of medicine at New York University.  An important discussion of medical futility -- when aggressive care can bring no benefit and only increase suffering.

Panel Urges Overhauling Health Care At End of Life
New York Times, September 18, 2014.  Article about the new report issued by Institute of Medicine calling for comprehensive reform to increase access to palliative care, provide care at home, etc.  Click here to download either the summary or the full report.

Dying Without Morphine
New York Times, October 1, 2014, by Ronald Piana.  "Imagine watching a loved one moaning in pain, curled into a fetal ball, pleading for relief.  Then imagine that his or her pain could be relieved by an inexpensive drug, but the drug was unavailable.  Each day about six million terminal cancer patients around the world suffer that fate because they do not have access to morphine, the gold standard of cancer pain control.  The World Health Organization has stated that access to pain treatment, including morphine, is an essential human right."  An impassioned plea to remedy this horrendous situation.  Access to health care must be a human right!

A Christian Perspective on Choice in Dying
by Episcopal Bishop Shelby Spong, at the 14th national conference of the Hemlock Society, January 2003.  "I think this choice should be legal.  I will work...to create a world where...physicians will assist those, who choose to do so, with the ability to die at the appropriate time.  I also think the choice to do this should be acclaimed as both moral and ethical, a human right if you will...The God whom I experience can surely not be served by those in whom death is simply postponed or not allowed to serve its natural function."  and from his congressional testimony:  "I come to these conclusions as a Christian...My personal creed asserts that every person is sacred.  I see the holiness of life enhanced, not diminished, by letting people have a say in how they choose to die."

Fighting to Honor a Father's Last Wish:  To Die At Home
by Nina Bernstein, New York Times, September 25, 2014.  Powerful and disturbing article detailing one woman's struggle to get end of life care for her father at home instead of in institutions, and the twisted financial incentives that make this so hard.

India and The Right to Suicide
by Jerry Pinto, New York Times, December 28, 2014.  Describes the sad situation in India where archaic laws still criminalize suicide and ill people and their families are subject to prosecution and shakedowns.

No One Should Have The Right To Die Until God is Done Toying With them
The Onion, November 11, 2014.  Hilarious satire of the concept that suffering is enobling.

Israelis must not stop fighting for physician-assisted suicide
By Avinoam Reches, January 6, 2015, in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.  Reports on the "courageous decision" of an Israeli court ruling that allowed a patient with terminal ALS to end his life.  "To preface a necessary debate on this subject within Israeli society, it is worth repeating the words of the famous cardiac surgeon Prof. Christiaan Barnard:  'I have learned from my life in medicine that death is not always the enemy.  Often it is good medical treatment.  Often it achieves what medicine cannot achieve -- it stops suffering.'"

Patient Autonomy Gone Wrong:  When Doing Everything is Way Too Much
by Jessica Nitter, New York Times, February 8, 2015.  Archetypal example of the perils of staying alive at all costs, of failing to shift focus from cure to care at the appropriate point.

California Medical Association Removes Opposition to Physician Aid In Dying Bill
A statement by the California Medical Association, May 20, 2015.  The CMA announces that it is officially "neutral" on Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, becoming the first state medical association to drop its opposition to physician aid-in-dying.  Even better, the language of the CMA statement makes clear that the organization’s leadership supports the bill:  “As physicians, we want to provide the best care possible for our patients. However, despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we’ve made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn’t always enough,” said Dr. Luther F. Cobb, the association’s president. “The decision to participate in the End of Life Option Act is a very personal one between a doctor and their patient, which is why CMA has removed policy that outright objects to physicians aiding terminally ill patients in end of life options. We believe it is up to the individual physician and their patient to decide voluntarily whether the End of Life Option Act is something in which they want to engage. Protecting that physician-patient relationship is essential.”

California Senate Panel Should Let Right To Die Bill Move Forward
A strongly worded editorial by the Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2015, endorsing Senate Bill 128: “As polls have shown consistently, a strong majority of Californians believe that terminally ill people should be able to end their lives peacefully and without pain when death is near.  The state’s residents have waited too long … The Senate needs to move this bill along; the right to make one’s own, final medical decisions should be obvious by now…The California Medical Association’s change in position is an acknowledgement that attitudes have evolved, including among many of its members.  The organization explained its change of heart by saying that this is a private medical decision between patient and doctor.  Exactly.”

Assisted-death bill approved by California Senate
Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2015.  The California Senate passes SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, by a strong 24 to 13 majority !!!  "Passage of the bill, authored by [Senator Lois] Wolk and Democratic Sen. Bill Monning, would permit the terminally ill 'to voluntarily end their lives in peace,' she said.  Wolk talked of the prolonged, 'brutal' death of her own mother from cancer and said the proposed law would give Californians an alternative to such suffering."

The Last Day of Her Life
by Robin Marantz Henig, The New York Times Magazine, May 14, 2015.  Important and fascinating article about Sandy Bem, famed Cornell University psychology professor, who chose to hasten her death when she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.

End-of-Life Lessons, Sadly Relearned
by Paula Span, in "The New Old Age" blog, in the New York Times, May 26, 2015.  Important lessons for end of life care, learned from experience. 

Physician Aid in Dying Gains Acceptance in the U.S.
by Paula Span, in "The New Old Age" blog, in the New York Times, Jan. 16, 2017.  Ms Span notes that  "the country has arrived at a remarkable moment:  Close to 20 percent of Americans live in jurisdictions where adults can legally end their lives if they are terminally ill and meet eligibility requirements." Describing the growing acceptance of aid in dying, Ms. Span quotes Donna Smith, legislative manager for the District of Columbia for Compassion & Choices, "I hear talk all the time about this being a rich white person's issue.  Now we have proof on the ground that this is not true."  The Times notes that "In the District of Columbia, nearly half of whose residents are African-American, five of six black council members voted in favor of the legislation."

Death Without Dignity
by Annabelle Gurwitch, in the New York Times, June 10, 2015.  A personal story of one group of friend's efforts to assist a dying friend -- highlighting the importance of making aid-in-dying legal.

How To Talk About Dying
by Ellen Goodman, in the New York Times, July 1, 2015.  An impassioned story by the famed writer and founder of The Conversation Project.  Dedicated to the concept that the single most important thing about avoiding a bad death is to talk about it -- with your loved ones, the person who has your power of attorney, and your doctors -- making it clear what care you do and don't want.  With excellent "starter kits" to get the conversation going.

Aid in Dying Movement Advances
Editorial in the New York Times, October 10, 2016, in which the Times makes clear its support for aid in dying.  Responding to the statement by the New York Medical Society opposing aid in dying, the Times writes:  "In fact, terminal patients in excruciating pain and their relatives contemplate these implications every day around the country.  There is no compelling reason to deprive them of physician-assisted dying as one option alongside high-quality innovative palliative care."  The editorial describes how the issue became personal for New York assemblywoman Amy Paulin, when her sister was dying of ovarian cancer.  "'The pain was unbelievable,' Ms. Paulin said, describing her sister's final days.  'She would be crying in agony.'  If her sister had lived in a state where requesting a lethal dose of medicine was legal, Ms. Paulin said, she may have been spared days of misery.  'It would have been a much better ending.'"

Unitarian Universalist Association policy on aid in dying - "The Right To Die With Dignity"
The official policy of the Unitarian Universalist Association -- The 1988 General Resolution -- fascinating and important.  Opens with a profound statement:  "Guided by our belief as Unitarian Universalists that human life has inherent dignity, which may be compromised, when life is extended beyond the will or ability of a person to sustain that dignity; and believing that it is every person's inviolable right to determine in advance the course of action to be taken in the event that there is no reasonable expectation of recovery from extreme physical or mental disability..."  Concludes that "Unitarian Universalists advocate the right to self-determination in dying, and the release from civil or criminal penalties of those who, under proper safeguards, act to honor the right of terminally ill patients to select the time of their own deaths..."

Choice At The End of Life
The history of Unitarian involvement in advancing the cause of aid in dying.  By Elaine McArdle, in UU World, April 25, 2016.

Picking a Nursing Home Shouldn't Be Trial and Error
Jane Brody's "Personal Health" column in the New York Times from August 4, 2014 -- vitally important information for people evaluating the suitability of a nursing home for a loved one with dementia

 

Audio and Video


Notes from the World Federation Conference
December 6, 2014 -- video of the Hemlock of Illinois event reporting on the World Federation Conference held in Chicago in September 2014 -- with presentations from Deborah Scott, Joan Sophie and Ed Gogol.  Reports on the worldwide movement.  About sixty minutes with another 30 minutes of discussion and videos.

The Brittany Fund
Website for Brittany Maynard, the courageous Californian with aggressive brain cancer who has moved to Oregon to take advantage of its progressive death with dignity law.  Also watch the interview with Ms. Maynard on CBS Morning News on October 14, 2014.

End of Life Decisions
Excellent interview with Hemlock of Illinois president Ed Gogol, on the "Chicago Tonight" program hosted by Phil Ponce, on Chicago PBS station WTTW, on September 24, 2014

Is There an Ideal Age to Die?
Commentary by Hemlock of Illlinois president Ed Gogol, on the "Chicago Tonight" website on October 7, 2014, responding to an article by Ezekiel Emanuel.

Canada considers right-to-die policies
In-depth conversation with Veronique Hivon, legislator in the Canadian province of Quebec, and the person most responsible for the 2014 passage of Quebec's groundbreaking aid-in-dying law.  On the "Worldview" program of Chicago's WBEZ radio station (part of National Public Radio), September 17, 2014.

Physician-Assisted Suicide:  Only as a Last Resort
Famed medical ethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan announces his support for legalized aid-in-dying, as it's done in Oregon, Washington and Vermont!  In print and video, on Medscape, on September 24, 2014.  Sign up for a free Medscape account to read and view.

"The Suicide Plan" on FrontLine
The documentary on assisted dying produced by Boston PBS station WGBH, first aired on PBS on November 30, 2012.  Covers Final Exit, Compassion and Choices, and Derek Humphry.  Gives more than equal time to opponents to spread distortions, but well worth watching.

"The Suicide Tourist" on FrontLine
A powerful documentary about Craig Ewert, terminally ill with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), facing a horrible death, who went to Switzerland to end his life with the assistance of the wonderful Swiss group Dignitas

Thom Hartmann calls for Death With Dignity Laws across the nation
The popular commentator quotes Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and calls for the passage of death with dignity laws across the nation.

"Honey" -- award-winning Italian film by Valeria Golino about death with dignity
This powerful drama played in Chicago in early May, 2014.  It tells the story of Irene, who has an unusual and secret profession.  She tells people she's a student.  In reality she helps terminally ill people die with dignity.  As the film progresses, she develops a strong, conflicted relationship with one of her clients.  The film is by famed Italian actress and director Valeria Golino and stars Jasmine Trinca and Carlo Cechhi.  It's an official selection of the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.  The New York Times calls it "an impressive debut," the New Republic says it's "a brilliant and original picture...seek it out," and the Hollywood Reporter writes that it's "mature and startlingly cinematic." 

How To Die in Oregon
Website for the award-winning documentary about the compassionate relief provided by the death-with-dignity law in Oregon, and the successful campaign to pass a similar law in Washington state in 2008.  Highly recommended.

Hemlock of Illinois on Chicago Public Access TV
Twelve shows by Hemlock of Illinois, featuring Jerry Dincin and Rosalie Guttman, which aired from May through December in 2010

Rev. Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown South Africa, welcomes delegates to the 2014 World Federation Conference
September 2014, on the website of Dignity South Africa.  Wow !!!!!   -- What a great man.

South African activist Sean Davison arrives home
May 2012, on South African TV.  Sean Davison arrives home in South Africa after serving his sentence in New Zealand for helping his mother die.  Powerful stuff, watch this!

New Life for the Aid-in-Dying Movement
by Julia Jacobs, on Evanston radio station WNUR, January 30, 2015.  23 minutes.  With quotes from Khadine Bennett of the ACLU of Illinois, George Eighmey of the Death With Dignity National Center, and Hemlock of Illinois members Lynn and Court Lawson and Ed Gogol

The Farewell Party
Absolutely stupendous Israeli comedy by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, released in the US on May 22, 2015.  Moving, compassionate, profound, and often hilarious.  Tells the story of a group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home who together help a terminally ill friend – in a surprisingly ‘creative’ way.  When rumors of their assistance begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the friends are suddenly faced with a life and death dilemma.  Winner of 4 Ophir Awards (the Israeli Academy Awards), including Best Actor for acclaimed Israeli actor Ze’ev Revach, the film received a total of 14 nominations, including for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress.  Really makes plain why we need to make aid-in-dying legal everywhere, and why until we do, brave souls will take great personal risks to help their loved ones die.


Books

The Best Way To Say Goodbye: A Legal Peaceful Choice At The End of Life
by Stanley A. Terman, PhD, MD.  A very detailed discussion of many aspects of death with dignity, focusing especially on VSED (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking), otherwise known as "refusing food and fluids".  Published 2007 by Life Transitions Publications.

How We Die:  Reflections on Life's Final Chapter
by the late Sherwin B. Nuland, MD.  A profound and important, detailed description of the physical realities of dying and death.  First published in 1995.  Read this to understand the true realities of dying, and how horrible it can be, and why the right to hasten one's death must become a fundamental human and legal right.

In Search of Gentle Death:  The Fight for Your Right to Die with Dignity
by Richard N. Côté.  Explores the rapid evolution and accelerating growth of the modern death-with-dignity movement in the United States and abroad from 1975 to the present.  Highly recommended.

Jane Brody's Guide to the Great Beyond:  A Practical Primer to Help You and Your loved Ones Prepare Medically, Legally, and Emotionally for the End of Life
by Jane Brody.  An excellent and highly worthwhile book, covering all aspects of end-of-life and avoiding a bad death.  In chapter 14, on assisted dying ("what to consider when illness is unbearable"), she covers both sides of the argument, but ends by concluding, when thinking about her own mother's suffering, "at the same time, having witnessed her physical deterioration and existential suffering first-hand, I believe that even with the best possible physical and emotional support, had I been in her shoes, I, too, would have chosen the option of a hastened demise."  (Which is what it's all about, providing a choice!)

Knocking On Heaven's Door:  The Path to a Better Way of Death
by Katy Butler.  A profile by the award-winning journalist of her father's extended and horrible dying process, followed by the more gentle passing of her mother.  Argues forcefully for letting nature take its course when further medical treatment will yield only suffering, and for accepting death as natural.  Offers much valuable advice for caregivers.  Highly recommended.  Here's the excellent book review from the New York Times, in September 2013.

Notes from the Waiting Room:  Managing a Loved One's End-of-Life Hospitalization
by Bart Windrum.  A detailed discussion about the realities of hospitalization for the end-of-life patient, with many tips for family members.  His thesis is that hospitals don't provide "care" as laypeople understand it, but rather "bodily-repair services".  Includes in-depth discussions about power-of-attorney documents and do-not-resuscitate orders.  Concludes with an extended discussion of alternatives to dying in hospitals, and proposes a new model for end-of-life care.  Recommended.

 
 

Articles about Jerry Dincin

Right To Die Advocate Jerry Dincin Awaits His Own Exit
Chicago Magazine, August 2012.  A wonderful and powerful portrait of Jerry.  "Dincin is far from the typical North Shore retiree.  He is one of the nation's most prominent right-to-die advocates.  From 2009 to 2011, he was president of the Final Exit Network, a controversial nonprofit group that aims to help the terminally ill and those suffering from unbearable pain who want to choose when their lives end.  He says that he has been present with 14 such people ... Dincin calls the right to die "the ultimate civil right."

Jerry Dincin, Right-To-Die Advocate, Has died
Chicago Magazine online, March 26, 2013.

Final Exit Network announces the passing of Jerry Dincin
Final Exit Network website, March 26, 2013

Jerry Dincin, 1930-2013: At Thresholds, He Found Housing and Jobs For Mentally Ill
Chicago Tribune, March 29, 2013

Jerry Dincin, 82, Mental Health Expert
Chicago Sun-Times, March 28, 2013

Jerry Dincin, a leader for death-with-dignity, loses cancer battle:  "End-of-life liberty is the ultimate civil right"
originally published on the Hemlock of Illinois website, March 26, 2013

The death with dignity movement has lost a great national leader.  Jerry Dincin, Ph.D., died at age 82 on March 26, 2013, after a long battle with prostate cancer.  He served as President of Final Exit Network from 2009 through 2012.  Before becoming active in the movement, he had a long career as a major innovator in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation.

Dr. Dincin was diagnosed with cancer In 2001, only a few weeks after marrying Suzanne Streicker.  “I wasn’t prepared to die, and I didn’t like my attitude about death and dying.  Our culture avoids the subject and treats it like a taboo, which is unfortunate,” said Dr. Dincin.   So, in 2004, he attended a workshop about death and dying at a Buddhist monastery led by Joan Halifax.  “The workshop changed my attitude and made death feel more natural.”

The following year in 2005, he became active in Final Exit Network (FEN), a national organization whose purpose is to obtain the basic human right of competent adults to end their lives on their own terms if they are suffering from irreversible illness or intractable pain and no longer want to live.

“I still had energy, so I became a board member and an exit guide right away.  I was an exit guide fourteen times, and I never did anything but be there as a witness.”   Dr. Dincin said that being an exit guide was the deepest and most humane experience he had ever had.  “It was ethically, morally, politically correct.  I felt like I was giving the biggest gift possible to a fellow human who was suffering deeply – the gift of your compassionate presence.  Most people have a fear of dying alone with no one to comfort them.” 

Then in February 2009, four volunteer members of Final Exit Network were arrested and charged with felony crimes of “assisting in a suicide” in Georgia.  The organization’s bank accounts were seized.  Then a second case hit, when authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, brought similar felony charges against three other FEN volunteers and its medical director, Dr. Larry Egbert, who had been charged in Georgia.

Dr. Dincin had become president of Final Exit Network a week before the Georgia arrests happened.  He rallied the organization and raised new funds to mount legal defenses for its volunteers.  “The legal assault began on practically the first day Jerry took over as president,” said Florida lawyer Robert Rivas, who is FEN’s general counsel.  “Thanks to Jerry’s leadership and resolve, the prosecutions in Arizona and Georgia were a complete failure, and FEN is thriving.”

All the Georgia charges were dismissed after the Georgia Supreme Court found the Georgia statute on “assisting in a suicide” to be unconstitutional.   Ultimately, the Arizona prosecutions failed also.

At the time of his death, Dr. Dincin and two other volunteers for Final Exit Network were under indictment on charges stemming from the 2007 Minnesota case of Doreen N. Dunn.  Dr. Dincin had served as an exit guide for Ms. Dunn.  “We did nothing wrong, ethically or legally.  We ­never assist.  Dunn suffered from horrible constant pain throughout her body, and I am convinced she did the right thing,” said Dr. Dincin.

“How can it be illegal to offer comfort and compassion to a person who is dying?  The Minnesota case is just another battle in the war we are fighting to grant people this basic civil right – the right to control your own life and death,” said Dr. Dincin shortly before his death.  “It is as important a right as racial or gender civil rights – or the right to abortion or to vote.  I know that we will be victorious because people should be able to choose how they die and to receive help with their decision.”

In addition to his work with Final Exit Network, Dr. Dincin also served as a Board Member and as Vice President of Hemlock of Illinois for a number of years.

Dr. Dincin was born August 20, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York.  Though he was only 16 when his father died in 1947, he and his mother took over the father’s furniture business, but he knew it wasn’t the right career for him.  Dr. Dincin received a Bachelor’s Degree from Brooklyn College and a Master’s Degree in Sociology at Case Western Reserve in Ohio in 1955, but continued in the family business to help his mother.

In June 1958, he began work at New York City’s highly innovative Fountain House, a community-based, psychiatric rehabilitation center led by John Beard that served as a model for many facilities around the United States.  “John Beard inspired me throughout my career to think creatively when working with the mentally ill,” said Dr. Dincin.  He started two programs in New Jersey similar to Fountain House in 1963.

Dr. Dincin moved to Chicago in 1965 to take over a small organization called Threshholds, which had a staff of 4.  By 2002 when he retired, the staff had grown to 900, and it had become one of the country’s premier psychiatric rehabilitation centers, serving 6000 persons annually.  His creativity, passion, dedication, and advocacy on behalf of those with serious mental illnesses led to revolutionary service innovations, such as employment, supported housing, education, and home and community outreach, all of which defied stigmas and fostered dignity and independence.

When he first arrived in Chicago, there were no out-patient programs for psychiatric rehabilitation.  “In 1965, it was unheard of that psychiatric patients could even work,” said Dr. Dincin.  “We started a job program and a housing program, and by the time I left in 2002, we had about 1,000 people living in safe, decent, affordable housing.”

Dr. Dincin invented four totally innovative programs at Threshholds for people with mental illness – for adolescents, deaf people, mothers, and ex-prisoners.  “Until then, deaf people with mental illness were treated as if they were retarded in hospitals.”   The organization grew and established branches throughout the Chicago area.

“The agency is still doing well, and I feel proud that we were able to establish a way for many thousands of mentally ill people to participate in our society who would previously have been unable to,” Dr. Dincin said shortly before his death.  Threshholds won prizes from the American Psychiatric Association, and many other organizations as well.

Dr. Dincin earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Northwestern University in 1976.  “It was an accomplishment – running the agency full-time and going to school part-time,” he said.

He met his second wife, Suzanne Streicker, in 1976 when she was working at Threshholds as a Social Worker.  “It was thrilling to be on the forefront – the leading edge of psychiatric rehabilitation,” she says, and adds “There was always good energy at Threshholds when Jerry was running it.”

Dr. Dincin was the son of Herman and Renee Dincin, émigrés from Russia and Rumania.  He is survived by his wife Suzanne Streicker, a sister Zola Schneider in Washington, D.C., and his four children.  He had seven grandchildren.

If you wish to honor Jerry’s memory, please send a contribution in his name to Final Exit Network at www.finalexitnetwork.org.