Law for doctor-aided suicide outlined Right-to-die advocate addresses conference

October 07, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

An article in Thursday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported the amount paid to Derek Humphry for his appearance at a symposium in Baltimore. The speaker's fee was $5,500 plus expenses.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphry brought his right-to-die message to Baltimore yesterday, outlining for a conference of health care industry representatives his proposed law to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide.

Mr. Humphry, whose how-to suicide manual "Final Exit" enjoyed a 20-week ride on the New York Times best-seller list, appealed to the medical profession -- which he said has failed to take a clear stand on the issue -- to join the widening debate on voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

He offered both a limited tribute and harsh criticism for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist who has aided in 18 deaths and awaits trial in Michigan on charges of violating a new law against assisting in a suicide.

"I pay tribute to him for the publicity he has brought to this cause," Mr. Humphry said. "The fact that 18 people went to him to end their lives is significant."

But he added that Dr. Kevorkian -- lacking clinical training, without a medical relationship with patients and seeming to treat death "in an arrogant and superficial way" -- is "the wrong messenger. . . . He stumbled into euthanasia and found it made him famous overnight."

The issue was the final subject for the daylong symposium on health care issues at the Belvedere, sponsored by NeighborCare pharmacies. About 200 people -- many from area nursing homes and hospitals -- discussed health care reforms and concerns with speakers including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat. Mr. Humphry said he no longer directs the Hemlock Society, which educates people on suicide, having turned his attention to pushing for laws allowing physician-assisted suicide. earns his living from book royalties and speaking fees -- such as the $10,000 that an organizer of yesterday's symposium said Mr. Humphrey was to receive.

His latest book, "Lawful Exit," contains what Mr. Humphry

considers model legislation for physician-assisted suicide in limited circumstances.

It covers terminally ill patients believed to be within six months of death, informed of all painkilling options and making a decision witnessed by two people who are not doctors or relatives.

Mr. Humphry predicted that physician-assisted suicide -- illegal now in every state -- will be legal across the nation by the end of the century. But Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. last month urged state lawmakers to specifically outlaw physician-assisted suicide.

Maryland's recently enacted right-to-die law does not condone suicide but gives terminally ill patients more say in how far their doctors may go to keep them alive.

Mr. Humphry said "soaring medical technology" and a public that is better informed on medical matters helped bring the "death-with-dignity" cause to the forefront of social issues in the past three years.

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