Dear Members and Friends of Final Exit Network:
As the new president of the Final Exit Network (FEN) Board of Directors, I want to share my views on the right-to-die movement and our FEN organization. To put things in perspective, I joined FEN in 2015, did the guide training in 2016, became a senior guide and joined the Board in 2017 and became president in July of this year. I am 77, walk 10,000 steps a day and plan to live to be 100, unless I incur great pain or some incurable disease. I do not want to suffer intolerable pain, have doctors decide when I can die or waste a lot of money trying to extend my life a few months. I want to have as much control over my last days as is legally possible.
With that perspective, I think the right-to-die movement is evolving quickly into a more important issue around the world. With 10,000 people turning 65 every year for the next 10 years, more people want to understand their legal options for managing their end days. Aging-in place communities are springing up all over the US to address the desire of people to age in their homes. FEN is developing a program for this community which we call Aging in Place, Dying in Peace.
The current medical-aid-in-dying laws require a person to be terminally ill, defined as likely to die in the next 6 months. I believe that there are many terminal diseases like ALS, MS and dementia for which there is no known cure, but that may linger for years. I believe people with these diseases should have a choice as to how they want to manage their pain and suffering, including hastening their death when their pain becomes unbearable.
I am proud to say that FEN is the only organization in this country that will accept people with these terminal diseases and provide them with legal education and compassionate support at the time of their death. We have done this for 15 years. FEN will continue to participate in the World Federation of Right to Die Societies to keep abreast of what is going on around the world and to learn of new legal methods available for people that choose to end their life on their own terms.
A group in England, My Death My Decision, published a paper on what constitutes a complete life that I found very interesting. It discusses how a number of issues can contribute to a person feeling that his or her life is complete, even if they do not have a terminal disease. FEN is beginning some basic research with people who apply for our services. The goal is to better understand all the issues that cause people to consider hastening their death. FEN is also developing an Advance Directive for people with dementia. It will allow a person to specify that he or she wants to stop eating and drinking after they lose competency. Of course there will be many legal battles before this option becomes viable.
Today the FEN organization is in a good and stable place. We have a strong Board, an outstanding new full-time executive director and strong leadership in our guide program. We have good legal counsel and some of the most inspirational volunteers in the world.
Our goal is to keep providing our services to those who qualify and to elevate FEN’s stature in the right-to-die movement.
President of the Board
Final Exit Network, Inc.