Final Exit: The End of Argument

The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 30-33, 1992

4 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2011

See all articles by Susan M. Wolf

Susan M. Wolf

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: January 1, 1992


Derek Humphry's publication of Final Exit, billed as a suicide manual for the terminally ill, has played no small part in fueling the current swirl of efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Concern about whether physicians should assist suicide or deliberately kill their patients is ancient. But the recent reawakening of public attention has been marked by the Journal of the American Medical Association's "It's Over, Debbie," Dr. Timothy Quill's piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jack Kevorkian's dispatch of Janet Adkins and more recently two others in Michigan, and now Final Exit.

This last holds a special place in the roster. Final Exit inaugurates a new stage in the debate--the end. At least that is evidently how Humphry would have it. The book rejects the very idea of considered argument. Instead, it urges doctors and nurses to begin performing not only assisted suicide but also euthanasia, without engaging in discussion, seeking consensus, or awaiting changes in law. The book meanwhile encourage patients to commit suicide, with misstatements making the alternatives seem exceedingly difficult.

Wherever you stand in the debate, this book is thus profoundly disturbing. It is nearly certain to close minds, to lead caregivers to irresponsible acts, and to contribute to unwarranted deaths. It is hard to imagine a question more significant than whether certain citizens, particularly physicians, should be permitted to take the lives of others. Yet this ultimate question is here reduced to propaganda and diatribe. There are profound lessons in Final Exit, especially for those in bioethics.

Keywords: Physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, end-of-life care, death and dying, Final Exit, Hemlock Society, bioethics, law and ethics, health law

Suggested Citation

Wolf, Susan M., Final Exit: The End of Argument (January 1, 1992). The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 30-33, 1992, Available at SSRN:

Susan M. Wolf (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-625-3406 (Phone)
612-624-9143 (Fax)


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