Having to respond to Derek Humphry's claims of my mother's 'mental
illness' is both humiliating and insulting. Anyone who knew Ann
Wickett realizes how courageous and sensible she was, and how
preposterous such claims are. And no one [knew] better than Humphry
himself. Death for Humphry's Hemlock Society is strictly business, and
to him his wife simply became bad business, to be discarded. What he
did to my mother disgusts me. To top it off, he had no qualms about
printing a eulogy in The New York Times, then later openly admitting
its purpose was damage control.
Robert W. Stone, Ann Wickett Humphry's son.
The Hemlock Society and other "Right to Die" organizations
are fighting for the most basic rights of all people. After all, if you
have no control over how you will die, life itself has little meaning.
The Hemlock Society is a champion of the idea that we should all have
the Constitutional right to control our own bodies.
The Fractured History of
the Hemlock Society.
The End and the Beginning.
Derek Humphry, a British journalist, was in a difficult situation in
early 1975. His wife Jean was suffering from the agony of incurable bone
cancer, and he could not bear to see her in such pain. So, after much
discussion between them, he handed her a cup of coffee loaded with
barbiturates and pain killers. She drank this concoction and died.
Less than a year after Jean died, Humphry married American Ann
Wickett. With her help, he wrote the book Jean's Way, published
in 1978, that described the ordeal he shared with his first wife. With
media attitudes toward euthanasia being as favorable as they were, the
book was soon made into a television movie and a stage play entitled Is
This the Day?, the last words Jean Humphry allegedly spoke before
she killed herself.
Laying the Foundation.
In 1980, Humphry moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the Hemlock
Society, aptly named after the cup of poisonous herbs that the Greek
philosopher Socrates was forced to drink by his Athenian enemies (it is
significant that Socrates was the victim of involuntary
"euthanasia"). Humphry also founded a pro-euthanasia political
group named Americans Against Human Suffering to promote the
legalization and social acceptance of assisted suicide.
The Deaths of Ann's Parents.
In 1986, Ann Wickett Humphry's parents took their own lives, assisted
by her and Derek Humphry. The Humphrys illegally impersonated doctors in
order to obtain lethal doses of Vesparex, a powerful barbiturate. They
then mixed the crushed tablets into applesauce and ice cream. Ann
spoon-fed her mother the deadly ice cream, and Derek watched her father
feed himself the applesauce. Both of Ann's parents died minutes
later. Technically, Derek Humphry assisted in a suicide while his
wife actually committed homicide.
In direct contradiction to their philosophy that assisted suicide is
a paramount personal right, the Humphrys realized that they had done
something very wrong and desperately tried to cover up the evidence. Ann
put the dishes in the dishwasher and buried her handbag (containing the
unused Vesparex) in the garbage. The Humphrys also destroyed any other
evidence of their participation in the deaths, including all
correspondence between themselves and Ann's parents regarding assisted
suicide. To top it all off, Ann told the coroner that her sister was
their parent's primary caregiver, thereby attempting to implicate her in
Following her husband's lead, Ann Humphry soon authored a book about
her parent's death entitled Double Exit (perhaps the title was in
deference to Britain's Exit Society, another "Right-to-Die group).
In September of 1989 Ann Humphry was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Derek Humphry, the leader of the "compassionate" Hemlock
Society, responded to this situation by labeling her a mental
incompetent and then dumping her.
Robert W. Stone, Ann Humphry's son, defended her and revealed some of
the inner machinations of the Hemlock Society when he wrote that
"Having to respond to Derek Humphry's claims of my mother's 'mental
illness' is both humiliating and insulting. Anyone who knew Ann Wickett
realizes how courageous and sensible she was, and how preposterous such
claims are. And no one better than Humphry himself. Death for Humphry's
Hemlock Society is strictly business, and to him his wife simply became
bad business, to be discarded. What he did to my mother disgusts me. To
top it off, he had no qualms about printing a eulogy in The New York
Times, then later openly admitting its purpose was damage
She then publicly charged him with gross hypocrisy. Where was the
caring, nurturing attitude so prevalent in Hemlock Society literature?
Ann said that "I am an embarrassment to them. I was dumb enough to
Eventually, Ann Humphry rode her horse into a remote Oregon
wilderness and killed herself.
The Hemlock Society's Assisted Suicide.
Ann Humphry charged that the Society had become a "parasitic
organism," taking dues from tens of thousands of members and
returning very little (Derek Humphry's salary was at least $65,000, not
counting travel expenses and many other perquisites). Additionally,
Humphry retained full control of Hemlock Society finances, and
authorized illegal transfers of Society money to non-tax exempt
satellite organizations like Americans Against Human Suffering.
The Hemlock Society Today.
Although it does not flatly say so, the Hemlock Society has, as its
ultimate objective, the enshrining of euthanasia on demand in this
country in the same manner that abortion on demand is now so honored.
This goal is frequently enunciated at Hemlock Society conferences and
For example, Dutch euthanasia doctor Julius Hackethal presented a
talk at the Second National Voluntary Euthanasia Conference of the
Hemlock Society, in which he confidently predicted that "Your
[Hemlock Society] congress will help that the self-evident human rights
for a dignified death will become a fixed and steady law all over the
world. Such a vested human right would automatically cause that
everybody would be able to determine for himself at what time and in
which way he wants to die."
As Derek Humphry has made perfectly clear, the Society intends to use
the virtually infallible strategy of gradualism to achieve its ultimate
goal. First the euthanasiasts pushed for the Living Will, and then the
durable power of attorney. Then it was doctor-assisted suicide, and
finally it will be euthanasia on demand.
For more detailed information on this general strategy and how it
precisely follows the pro-abortion strategy, see Chapter 112,
"Objectives of the Euthanasia Movement."
In aid of its goals, the Hemlock Society and its members actively
counsel people to take their own lives. Their purpose in doing so is not
only to relieve the suffering of individuals; they assume (correctly)
that widespread flouting of the law is a powerful propaganda tool. After
all, if the law is widely ignored, why retain the law? It's outmoded and
antiquated, after all, and society has matured beyond such meaningless
Does all of this sound familiar?
If it doesn't, it certainly should!
Today's Hemlock Society.
Although the Internal Revenue Service seems to have taken an interest
in Hemlock Society finances, the Society continues its fight for
euthanasia on demand on several fronts. It has found that the Pacific
Northwest is fertile ground for its ideas.
The Hemlock Society publishes a book entitled Compassionate
Crimes, Broken Taboos, which is a detailed anthology of mercy
killings and assisted suicides. The Society likes to joke that
libraries have a real problem in getting people to return this book
(after all, dead people don't worry about nickel-a-day fines).
Disturbingly, the Hemlock Society has recently experienced a large
influx of new members, notably many AIDS sufferers. If American society
continues to follow the utilitarian Hemlock lead, we may soon find a
cheap, easy, and efficient way to avoid the expense of caring for all of
these stigmatized "AIDS people."
Even more unsettling is the fact that the "Right to Die"
movement is spreading all over the world. Derek Humphry was recently
elected president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies,
which has half a million members in 17 countries. Some of these
organizations are listed in Chapter 112, "Objectives of the
Revisiting the Crime?
The entire sequence of events in Humphry's life is most peculiar, but
at the same time most familiar. Instead of attempting to legalize
euthanasia and then killing someone, he reversed the order by killing
his first wife and then attempting to legalize euthanasia. He then
reinforced this behavior by assisting his second wife in the 1986
killing of her parents.
The role of guilt in such activities is clear. Humphry regularly
boasts about how "caring" and "compassionate" he was
in killing his first wife. He has never repented of this crime, so he is
attempting to force society to approve of his crime albeit in a belated
fashion by legalizing what he has done.
This drive to assuage guilt instead of repenting is typical among
those who adhere to the anti-life mentality, as described in Chapter 2
of Volume I. Homosexuals, pornographers, and pro-abortionists band
together and attempt to legalize their behavior, as do prostitutes and
the users of illegal drugs. The examples of this kind of behavior are
countless, and they are all damaging to the fragile fabric of society.
Hemlock's Fishy Survey.
Anti-life groups commonly use doctored or entirely phony surveys of
public or professional opinion to bolster their viewpoints. They point
at the "results" of their survey(s) and say that, since they
are in the majority, then everyone else must fall into lockstep behind
Not surprisingly, they refuse to allow anyone to examine their
methodology or the actual survey results, purportedly for unspecified
"legal reasons" or "to protect the privacy of their
Failed California Initiative.
In 1988, the Hemlock Society pushed hard to get an initiative ballot
on the California election slate that would have legalized assisted
suicide. The initiative failed to gather enough signatures, primarily
due to the strong opposition of the California Medical Association and
the Catholic Church.
The 1988 Hemlock survey of California doctors was apparently
performed in support of this initiative ballot. The idea of the survey
was to "show" that most doctors killed their patients anyhow,
so it must be all right.
After allegedly receiving input from hundreds of doctors, the Hemlock
Society summarized its responses and then burned them "on advice of
legal counsel" so that the numbers could not be crosschecked.
The Hemlock Society "found" that;
• 79 percent of California doctors had killed a patient that had
asked to die. Of these 'doctors,' 84 percent thought that they did the
right thing, and 13 percent had killed at least three persons;
• 68 percent of all California doctors favored a relaxation of
existing euthanasia laws; and
• 51 percent of all California doctors said that they would
practice euthanasia if it were legal.
One of the indicators that this was a bogus survey is the conflict
between the first and third results as tallied above. If 79 percent of
all California doctors had already killed at least one person when
euthanasia was still illegal, does it make any sense that only 51
percent would practice euthanasia if it were legal a drop of 28
A "Doctor" With
Public and Private Objectives.
The Hemlock Society has, as its ultimate objective, the legalization
of euthanasia on demand. Under such laws, anyone of any age could enter
a euthanasia clinic and, after perfunctory "counseling" (of
the same type women currently receive in abortion clinics), "end it
all" for a modest fee.
However, the Society cannot state this goal publicly because it is
too radical for the general public at least for now. The Society
officially insists that all it wants is perhaps the Living Will here,
the withdrawal of nutrition there, and perhaps at the most
"assisted suicide" for those in the last months of life. As
Derek Humphry himself has said, "We have to go stage by stage, with
the living will, with the power of attorney, with the withdrawal of
this; we have to go stage by stage. Your side would call that the
An Honest Killer.
At least one Hemlock member seems to have thrown off the shackles of
conventional tactics and has spoken his mind freely. He is a retired
pathologist, Jack ("The Dripper") Kevorkian.
After he helped fellow Hemlock member Janet Adkins kill herself in
1990, he said that "Religious dogma has become part of the marrow
of humanity. We can't get rid of it. There should be absolutely no
connection between medicine and religion, but there is, and it's
paralyzing ... Religion has fouled up medicine for centuries."
Kevorkian is right, of course; religion has "fouled up" his
brand of medicine ever since it was first practiced the kind of
"medicine" where "doctors" expose newborns, kill
preborn babies, let people starve to death, and commit murder and
Kevorkian says that he wants to set up a chain of "obitoriums"
or euthanasia clinics for people who wanted to commit suicide. He says
"Let me put together a small [euthanasia] team called the
Untouchables. I guarantee, under my supervision, it would be
Kevorkian describes himself as an "obitiatrist," or 'death
doctor,' and has advocated everything from involuntary medical
experimentation on death-row inmates to chains of non-profit suicide
clinics. His motto: "A rational policy of planned death."
Interestingly, Kevorkian's business card reads:
Jack Kevorkian, M.D.
Bioethics and Obitiatry
Special death counseling
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
The Obvious Conclusion.
What is really interesting about Kevorkian's assisted
"kill" of Adkins is the reaction of the Hemlock Society to it.
Instead of publicly disavowing Adkin's death, Society members revealed
their true objectives by embracing it. Janet Good, president of
the Michigan chapter of the Hemlock Society, enthused that "He's [Kevorkian]
compassionate, he's courageous; thank God we have a doctor like him.
He's done a great service." After Kevorkian helped Susan Williams
kill herself on May 15, 1992, Good also announced that "Hemlock has
prospered and grown because of him."
Jack Kevorkian has indeed done all of us a great service. He
has shown us precisely what the Hemlock Society ultimately wants:
Euthanasia on demand, the establishing of a chain of euthanasia clinics
("obitoriums"), and a corps of "doctors" willing to
kill for a living. The abortionists will finally have company
If American society chooses to ignore this clear warning, as it has
ignored so many other warnings, then it deserves everything yes, everything
References: The Hemlock Society.
 Robert W. Stone, son of Ann Wickett Humphry, in a letter to Vanity
Fair, March 1992.
 Thomas W. Case. "A Requiem for the Hemlock Society." Fidelity
Magazine, June 1990. Pages 24 to 32.
 From the transcript of a speech by Dr. Julius Hackethal entitled
"Medical Help By Suicide As a Method of Voluntary Euthanasia,"
presented at the Second National Voluntary Euthanasia Conference of the
Hemlock Society on February 9th, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.
 Leslie Bond. "Hemlock Society Burns Responses to Euthanasia
Survey." National Right to Life News, March 10, 1988. Page
 Derek Humphry, Director, Hemlock Society, in a December 18, 1986
 National Catholic Register, June 24, 1990, page 2.
 Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman. "Rational Suicides: Urge
to Control Death." The Oregonian, June 17, 1990, page K3.
 Janet Good, quoted in Mary Meehan. "Down the Slope." National
Catholic Register, June 7, 1992, pages 1 and 6.
© American Life League BBS — 1-703-659-7111
This is a chapter of the Pro-Life Activist’s Encyclopedia published
by American Life League.