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Let Me Die Before I Wake: Hemlock's Book of Self-Deliverance for the Dying Paperback – Large Print, March, 1991

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Derek Humphry, a British/American journalist, founded the Hemlock Society in l980 in his garage in Santa Monica, California.  It grew into a national organization and published many books, including this one and 'Final Exit'.  Hemlock ceased in 2003 in a merger. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Natl Hemlock Society; Lrg Sub edition (March 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096060300X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0960603008
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,769 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 (2016) in place in Oregon, Washington, California and Vermont.

SILVER ANNIVERSARY OF BOOK 2016
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 2016, 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book preceeded the textbook on euthanasia, Final Exit,
and is different in that it relates true stories of dying
people and exactly how they took their lives to escape
prolonged suffering.
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Format: Paperback
This is a difficult book to read. Not because it is poorly written, on the contrary, but because of the stories contained within. In it the author describes the steps taken by several people in order to end their own lives (mostly through overdoses), in some cases through the direct help of close relatives, with one story covering the death of the author's first wife. These stories serve as the argument for the means of committing suicide being made available, and being accepted by society, and shows how terminally ill people may preserve their dignity by taking their lives into their own hands. In addition, two of the stories show the trouble that may result from the lack of assistance in such an endeavor, and the additional pain that may result when clumsy attempts fail and the people involved have to go further than should ever be necessary (shooting, asphyxiation).

The book also contains advice on how to commit suicide, for those who are actually contemplating such a thing, and gives good advice as to how to approach the subject, stressing an open dialogue with the nearest and dearest. However, the advise is in my opinion limited, and I would not suggest that anybody uses this book as their only reference, should they be contemplating suicide. However, as this is the first book directly dealing with this subject that I've read, I can as of yet offer no advice on other material.

Another reviewer pointed out the lack of a real discussion of when suicide is warranted, which I agree with. There is a short disclaimer in the beginning of the book against "irrational suicide", but a longer discussion of this would have been usable, preferably with resources for those who need it.
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What was vaguely addressed in this book was that suicide because of depression or mental problems is a very poor choice and should not be the first option but euthanasia for those suffering agonizing, debilitating illness should be a choice made when the mind of the victim is still lucid enough to make such a final decision. If you were in excruciating pain from which there was no relief, bedridden, and no hope for any quality of life ever, you might give this book 5 stars. In that situation, you would fully understand why ending life may be the very best thing to do for yourself. I deducted one star because the problem of suicide because of depression needed to be further discussed and discouraged more strongly.
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The title says it all -- I don't want a lot of suffering before it's my time to go. God will go me a great favor if he "Lets me die before I wake." I watched my wonderful mother and father suffer horribly (years apart from each other); it would have been so much easier for them If they had died in their sleep.
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This book provides information on the Hemlock Society which in a nut shell believes all people who are suffering have the right to die without suffering. Stories are to the point and real. The author has made his contribution to society..
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Touchy subject handled in a straightforward, informative, non-judgemental way. Collection of true stories about people who have struggled with difficult end-of-life decisions. Difficult to read at times given the subject matter, and stories can get tedious, but overall a good read if you or someone you know is faced with this dilemma.
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