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Monday, February 14, 2000

‘Olelo to televise
author Humphry’s
suicide lesson

The Hawaii Medical Association
president is 'disturbed' that the
video will be shown in Hawaii

By Gregg K. Kakesako
and Leila Fujimori


The head of the Hawaii Medical Association says he is "very disturbed" over plans by Hawaii's public access cable television station to air a 33-minute video guide to committing suicide.

The video -- based on Derek Humphry's best seller, "Final Exit" -- was first aired on Oregon public access stations in January. It will be be shown on ‘Olelo, Hawaii's public access cable television, at midnight on Feb. 29 and March 3.

‘Olelo can be seen on Oceanic Cable channel 52.

Dr. Phil Hellreich, HMA president-elect, said today he is concerned that the film could influence a mentally unstable or mentally depressed person "to take the easy way out."

Although the film is being shown at midnight and not during prime time or on a major network, its airing still bothers Hellreich. "I think it's a bad thing to do."

Even in Oregon, which allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally patients who request them, Hellreich said, advocates were uneasy about the telecast.

In the video, Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, lists three lethal drugs, in order of potency, and offers tips on where to get them with or without a doctor's prescription. He also shows how to mix and use them .

The HMA last year banded together with many other health-care organizations and churches to oppose legislation at the state Legislature to allow doctor-assisted suicides. At a public forum here yesterday, Humphry told a gray-haired audience that a plastic bag over the head, a $20 tank of helium and some rubber tubing can do a person in.

Because physician-assisted suicide is still illegal in most states, he said terminally-ill people must resort to other methods.

Hawaii has many supporters for the death with dignity movement, Humphry said. He attributes that to the lack of having one dominant religion in the islands.

At yesterday's forum, Charles Frankel, 72, said: "We need to change the law. I find it hard to put a plastic bag over my head. We try to make entrance into this world as easy as possible. Our exit should be as easy as possible."

Humphry said he has gotten a lot of feedback from families who say the doctor was helpful in the end. Most doctors do not want to risk prosecution, he said. But 50 percent of them say they would help terminally ill people die if it were legal, he said.

Humphry, an Oregon resident, has successfully helped push his state's legislature to legalize physician-assisted suicide, and will try to tackle Maine next.

A physician in the audience said he favors physician-assisted suicide, but he questioned Oregon's requirements, including the cost of obtaining two physicians' prior approval.

"Half a loaf is better than none," Humphry answered, saying concessions must be made to get legislation passed.

" (Michigan pathologist Jack) Kevorkian thinks he can do this on his own," Humphry said. "That's where he's off-base."

Humphry, a former journalist with the London Sunday Times and the Los Angele Times, faced the personal decision in 1976 while in England. His wife, whose breast cancer had spread to her bones and liver, asked him to assist her in ending her life. He consulted a doctor friend who helped with a lethal overdose of drugs. She died at home as she wished, Humphry said.

‘Olelo Web site

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