Faye Girsh is the Founder and the Past President of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. She was the President of the National Hemlock Society (Defunct) and the World Federation of RTD Societies (Extant). Currently, she is on the Advisory Board of the Final Exit Network and the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Here we talk about the proverbial hemlock.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are some of the common means by which people kill themselves in moments of desperation?
Faye Girsh: Firearms are the most used in the U.S. Although, there is a 15% failure rate. I’m not sure about Canada where it’s harder to get a weapon. Hanging is used often, e.g., Robin Williams.
It is apparently hard to succeed if the windpipe is injured but the carotid arteries are intact. In India people, especially farmers, swallow fertilizer. It is unfortunate that these unreliable, often painful, lonely ways to die are used by desperate people. Jumping, from tall buildings or in front of trains, is a frequent means. This almost always works but traumatizes train engineers or bystanders.
Ingesting medications that are not necessarily lethal can make one severely ill, but rarely result in death. The inhalation of Helium was an easy and reliable method, but not since the gas was diluted with 20% air. Nitrogen and other inert gases do work, but good supervision is important.
Jacobsen: What are the most common means by which individuals commit suicide in a controlled, pre-planned setting in the form of a Rational Suicide?
Girsh: In Canada, now, a qualified patient can request either orally ingested medication or a lethal injection. The latter is chosen as the vast majority of the time. This method is also available to qualified patients in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In the US, an organization, Final Exit Network, teaches eligible clients the use of the Nitrogen method which is quick, painless and certain.
It used to be that some organizations recommended ordering secobarbital (Seconal) or pentobarbital (Nembutal) from China, but these websites are no longer reliable and are often scams. It is not easy to die well.
Jacobsen: In your time at the Hemlock Society of San Diego in the past and in the World Federation of RTD Societies, what are some of the discussions around the future technologies utilized for the minimization of pain and suffering for individuals who wish for a Rational Suicide?
Girsh: An informal organization called NuTech, founded by Derek Humphry and Canadian John Hofsess, has been meeting for the past 15 years to discover and develop new technologies for self-deliverance. Currently, Philip Nitschke is the leader of the group which is open to doctors, engineers, divers, anyone with ideas. The Helim and Nitrogen methods emerged from the ideas of this group.
There is some interest in sodium nitrites but there is little data on this method. We all agree that the method should be quick, certain, painless, and easy to use without help. Many things are lethal but produce an unpleasant, uncertain, often grotesque death. We believe people should not die alone which precludes measures like jumping, shooting and hanging.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faye.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.