Suicide Made Easy: The Evil of ‘Rational’ Humaneness

Commentary, December 1991.


Americans have always been a handy people. If know-how were virtue, we would be a nation of saints. Unfortunately, certain old-fashioned taboos—brought to you by the people who know the difference between virtue and dexterity—have prevented Americans from gaining the ultimate know-how, the know-how to die. Until now. Riding atop the best-seller lists, outdistancing other manuals of self-help like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The T-Factor Fat Gram Counter, and Wealth Without Risk, is Derek Humphry’s latest book, Final Exit, subtitled “The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying.” Know-how in spades.

What can one say about this new “book”? In one word: evil. I did not want to read it, I do not want you to read it. It should never have been written, and it does not deserve to be dignified with a review, let alone an article. Yet it stares out at us from nearly every bookstore window, beckoning us to learn how to achieve the final solution—for ourselves or for those we (allegedly) love so much that we will help them kill themselves. Says the Lord High Executioner, Derek Humphry, prophet of Hemlock: I have set before thee life and death: therefore choose death. “Courageous,” bleat the media; “Timely.” “Rational.” “Humane.” Is there no one who will call evil by its proper name?