America’s new Dr Death

Dr Lawrence EgbertAccording to the latest issue of Newsweek, Jack Kervorkian has passed the baton of “Dr Death” to an 82-year-old anaesthesiologist of the Final Exit Network (FEN). As FEN’s medical director, Dr Lawrence Egbert says that he has “approved” about 80% of 200 to 300 applications from Americans for assisted suicide. In other words, he has been responsible for between 160 to 240 deaths. Like Dr Philip Nitschke, of Australia’s Exit International, and Ludwig Minelli, of Switzerland’s Dignitas, he is happy to help people to die even if they are not suffering from a terminal illness. Successful applicants to FEN are assigned “exit guides” who help a person to commit suicide without personally participating in the process. FEN’s recommended method is a hood over the head filled with helium.

Dr Egbert surfaced in the American media after helping a man die in Georgia. On March 9 authorities charged him and three associates with racketeering, assisting a suicide, and tampering with evidence. He will plead not guilty, says his lawyer. He has also been indicted in Arizona for manslaughter with another three associates.

A libertarian who once taught medical ethics at Johns Hopkins University, Dr Egbert believes passionately that everyone has the right to dispose of his or her life whenever they want. A doctor’s role is to reduce suffering, he told Newsweek. "When we can't help them fix the suffering, then we should help them get it over with," he says. And he adds, "I've never actually felt more like a doctor than [when I'm] doing this work."

Newsweek says that FEN is radical edge of the right-to-die movement. Even though Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1994, other states were slow to follow its example. The larger right-to-die groups decided to press for legislative change rather than act outside the law. After the Hemlock Society merged with a moderate group in 2004 to form Compassion & Choices, Egbert and others split to form a more activist group. ~ Newsweek, Mar 15

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | assisted suicide, euthanasia, FEN

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