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Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, 3rd Edition Paperback – November 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


“Until there is a law which would allow physicians to help people who want a Final Exit, here is Derek Humphry’s book, fittingly named, to guide them.”
--Betty Rollin, author of First, You Cry and Last Wish

“An honest, clear, compelling book.”
--Dr. Frederick R. Abrams, physician and ethicist

From the Author

Final Exit' 3rd edition was updated in April 2010.  Now known as edition 3.1

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Delta Trade; 3rd edition (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336536
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Derek Humphry was born in Bath, England, 04.29.1930 and brought up in a broken family. Despite a poor education, further damaged by six years of war, Derek determined to become a writer. Starting as a newspaper messenger boy on the Yorkshire Post at 15, he worked his way up as a reporter on the Bristol Evening World, the Manchester Evening News to the London Daily Mail, the London Sunday Times and finally the Los Angeles Times.

Always an advocacy journalist, Derek wrote books on race relations, police corruption and a biography of Michael X. For 'Because They're Black' he won the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize.

When the wife to whom he had been married for 22 years developed inoperable cancer, he nursed her for two years until she asked him to help her die. Close to the end, Jean chose to end her life with lethal drugs to avoid further suffering. In time, he married again and moved to America.

Derek published in l978 a little book Jean's Way describing Jean's final years and his part in helping her to die peacefully. It became a bestseller and was translated into major languages.

The public response to the book caused him to start the Hemlock Society USA in 1980 from his garage in Santa Monica. Hemlock's purpose was to help people in similar situations as Jean's and also to reform the laws to permit physician-assisted suicide.

Jean's chosen way of dying prefigured the laws later passed for physician-assisted suicide by prescription. 'Jean's Way' (1978-) helped change the debate from 'voluntary euthanasia' to the acceleration of death by a terminal patient choosing to drink a prescribed lethal potion. Such laws are now (2014) in place in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

Derek built Hemlock into a national organization, with 40,000 members and 80 chapters. In l991 he wrote 'Final Exit' - a 'how-to' book for the dying to bring their suffering to an end if they chose. To much surprise, it became a #1 bestseller within six months. It was translated into 12 languages. Random House keeps the 3rd edition of 'Final Exit' in print in 2014, and it is still in print in Spanish and Italian. USA TODAY in 2007 chose it as one of the most significant books of the past 25 years.

His latest book is a memoir --'Good Life, Good Death' -- covering 79 years of an eventful life -- ranging from an unusual childhood in a broken home, a father in prison, a mother who ran away to Australia, then experiencing an ugly war which started when he was nine. The book relates his remarkable experiences in journalism, outstanding interviews with famous people, and his struggle against racism. Derek immigrated to the USA at age 48.

The second half of the memoir deals with his impact on the right to die movement in America, starting and building the Hemlock Society for 12 years, and pioneering the Oregon Death With Dignity Act (l994), the first such assisted dying law in North America. (His memoir can be read on Kindle)

Proud to be a paperback writer, Derek has published 13 books in 40 years. Only two have been hardbacks.

Derek is president of the nonprofit Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO), which he founded in 1993. He is also a co-founder and chairman of the advisory board of the Final Exit Network (2004 successor to the now defunct Hemlock Society, which lasted 1980-2003) and an adviser to the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, of which he was president 1986-88..

Although unlettered himself, Derek has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, USC, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and other universities.

In his book "A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America,' Ian Dowbiggin writes: "Humphry ranks as one of the preeminent pioneers of the American euthanasia movement." (OUP. 2003. Page 149).

In their book 'Dying Right', the authors Daniel Hillyard and John Dombrink write: "Derek Humphry is widely acknowledged to be the initiatior of the euthanasia reform movement in the United States." (Routledge NY 2001. Page 82.) The PBS FRONTLINE TV documentary program in January 2013 described him as being "regarded as the father of modern right-to-die movement."

In John Sutherland's anthology "Curiosities of Literature", Derek's books are discussed at pages 141, 248 and 249. (Arrow Books 2008)

A citizen of the USA and UK, he lived in Los Angeles l978-88 and since then in western Oregon. He has been married to Gretchen (nee Crocker) since l991.

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.

[Update: 31 July 2015]

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 91 people found the following review helpful By K. Tini on September 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book to be incredibly informative. Watching my parents in the throes of death has made me vow to not do this to my children. Any ideas I had prior to reading this book were dispelled and I'm grateful to know what doesn't work! The book is not for the weak at heart - especially the illustrations but I've already connected with a partner and hope, that when the time comes, I'll have the fortitude to carry through.
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247 of 261 people found the following review helpful By STEPHEN PLETKO on April 24, 2004
Format: Paperback

After I read this book (first edition published in 1991) by Derek Humphry, I read some reviews of it on this site as well as on other sites. In many cases, I wondered whether a particular reviewer read the same book as I did! There seems to be some confusion as to the purpose of this book.

I think the confusion stems from a lack of understanding of two terms. "Suicide" is deliberately ending one's life. It is usually an irrational act. (For the record, I don't believe in irrational suicide.) "Self-Deliverance" is the action of an irreversible ill person (such as a person who is hopelessly ill or is terminally ill) who makes a rational, voluntary decision to end his/her own life.

The second of these two definitions is what this book is about. In the author's own words: "Please respect the true intensions of [this book]: the right of a terminally ill person with unbearable suffering to know how to choose to die."

Thus, this book is not for the depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal. The author elaborates: "I ask people with suicidal thoughts to share them with family or friends and if this does not help, to call one of the hot lines or help lines listed in their local telephone books."

There is an argument that the above three types of people might use the information in this book for their own early demise (despite the book's warnings) and therefore it should not have been published. But this is like saying tall buildings (or cars or bridges or etc.) should not be built because those with the intension of suicide might use them for an early demise. The fact is a suicidal person will always find a way.

Also, this book is not for the religious.
Read more ›
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96 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie E. Ladd on March 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Final Exit does not discuss the spiritual and ethical issues surrounding suicide and euthanasia. Some have criticized Derek Humphry for not including such discussions, but I contend that author has acted appropriately: the scope of this book is inform others on how to effectively plan and execute the last moments of life. It would be presumptuous of the author to lecture his readers on their own faith. If you are looking for answers concerning the spiritual ramifications of ending your life, then you should refer directly to sources on which you base your faith.
Concerning Final Exit's effectiveness as a manual, the language is clear and concise, the description of materials and their use is accurate, and the book provides you with adequate information to help you troubleshoot any problems unique to your situation.
I left off one star only because some of the drugs mentioned in the book are next to impossible to obtain due to the termination of production by pharmaceutical companies. There are alternatives, but these will require a bit more effort on the part of the reader.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
What I like most about this man is that he genuinely appreciates life and encourages people to live....surprised? This book is not aimed at everyone, only the terminally ill. He strongly discourages people from taking their own life unless they're sick. I respect his view that humans have the right to end their existence, even if the problem is mental distress, not physical. I did see a few methods that anyone who can walk themselves to the store with some cash on hand can do. Those methods require no doctor or hard-to-get materials. For sure, anyone with access to a doctor can use this book as a guide to obtain the essential materials needed.
I did wish the book had more methods of self deliverence (that are available without prescription), and more detailed instructions on using prescribed drugs.
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176 of 201 people found the following review helpful By William Bucko on March 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I once happened upon a mouse caught in a trap. It was badly wounded, but not dead. Needless to say, I put it out of its misery.
Unfortunately, our culture is dominated by a monstrous world-view that has less regard for human life than I had for that mouse: Christianity.
Politicians who thumb their noses at the Constitution forcibly impose their theological dogma on all of us--a dogma that I can only call "the Divine Right of Suffering"--the view that your life belongs, not to you, but to a sadistic supernatural ghost, and that no matter how much pain you're in, you have no right to end your own life. To call their vicious dogma "respect for life" is the most monstrous "big lie" that can be imagined.
Until Christians are civilized and made to respect the right of every individual to his own life, "Final Exit" is an essential book to have. Since a fair amount of preparation is necessary--preparation that in a decent society you could seek from a skilled professional--you should have this book on hand well ahead of time--just in case you ever need it.
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