For Immediate Release
New York City Atheists Inc.
Press Contact: 212-879-2687
July 24, 2009
‘Final Exit’ Doctor, Out on Bail, to Talk On
Persecution of Network Helping Terminally Ill
Awaiting Trial, Hounded Physician Defends Civil Rights
Of Suffering Patients
New York—Dr. Larry Egbert was sitting in his office on the third floor
of a row house that is also the home of the Baltimore Peace Center
when he heard a “tremendous hammering” on the door of the second floor
“I went out and said, ‘Stop yelling, the door is unlocked,’” he
relates. “Four policemen, guns out, carrying bulletproof shields,
charged up the stairs yelling, ‘You’re under arrest!’”
It was the Baltimore homicide squad. They handcuffed him and made him
sit handcuffed in his office for more than an hour while the Georgia
police department, who had arranged with Baltimore police to make the
arrest, instructed them on what to search for. “I was handcuffed in
back when they told me to sit down and wait but with my bad back I
couldn’t sit that way so they ‘kindly’ unlocked my handcuffs and put
them in front.”
Dr. Larry Egbert is 81 years old and teaches part-time at the John
Hopkins School of Medicine. He got his undergraduate degree from Johns
Hopkins and his M.D. degree from the University of Maryland Medical
School. He has spent a lifetime in medicine, treating patients,
teaching and doing public health work. “I wouldn’t have been able to
take on even one of those strapping cops, let alone four,” he says.
“They took my computer and all my files. Then they took me down to
central booking and put me into a private cell for ‘protective
custody’ on the psychiatric ward. They agreed to bail if I would get
myself to Georgia on Monday. So my wife put a lien on the house for
$60,000 and bailed me out.”
His crime? Compassion and guidance. Dr. Egbert is the unpaid medical
director of Final Exit Network, a nationwide volunteer network of
people dedicated to helping terminally ill patients to choose how, and
when, and where they will die.
While the Network members do not actually assist the patient, they
determine if the patient is indeed terminal and if everything medical
has been attempted to cure them. Network members even try to dissuade
the patient. But if the patient is adamant and resolute, the Network
people offer compassion and guidance based on the principles in the
book FINAL EXIT by Derek Humphry, which was a best seller as far back
as the 1980s.
Our Society’s Contradictions
As a specialist in anesthesiology, Dr. Egbert became interested, when
he was living in Dallas, Texas, in how some states use anesthetics for
executing criminals. “The so-called ‘lethal injection’ is actually an
anesthetic in larger doses,” he points out. “I got fascinated by this
as a moral problem, and the Unitarians invited me to give a series of
workshops on this and other medical/ethical dilemmas.”
Dr. Egbert points out the contradictions in our society, which has no
compunctions about killing people in Iraq or Afghanistan, but
considers it a crime to help a dying person achieve a peaceful demise.
Homes of Volunteers Raided
When Dr. Egbert was arrested on February 25th on charges of assisting
a suicide, along with three other Final Exit Network volunteers in
other sites, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) added charges
under the Georgia RICO racketeering statutes. “Thus, Georgia initiated
its plan to close down our organization,” said Jerry Dincin, president
of Final Exit Network, in a press release.
“Their plan, as has become evident, is to bankrupt us by seizing our
bank accounts and those of our affiliates,” Dincin added. “They have
also raided the homes of 14 of our officers and other members,
confiscating their computers and records. They are also getting other
police departments to bring similar charges against others of our
volunteers, knowing that each person arrested must have their own
lawyer, so that the legal charges will ultimately drain what is left
of our money or what we might raise.”
He notes, however, that the Network is surviving with loans and
donations by people who are outraged at the GBI’s tactics. In
addition, Derek Humphry, author of FINAL EXIT and a Network advisory
board member, has established a legal defense fund. “Between the two
efforts, we have been able to bail out our members and hire first-rate
attorneys who are working for a reduced rate,” Dincin reports.
Salute Atheist Heroes
Come on Thursday to the NYC Atheists meeting to hear from his own lips
the remarkable, courageous story of Dr. Larry Egbert, who spent time
in jail so that his suffering patients nationwide may receive the
surcease of pain and the peaceful farewells they yearn for. Do not ask
for whom the bell tolls; someday, it may toll for you.
We Atheists do not have many heroes. When a genuine hero arises, let’s
let him know we care. Let’s let Dr. Egbert know we appreciate his
nobility and his sacrifices and his concerns for patients. Come, let
us show our appreciation with a round of applause that he will
remember when, and if, he has to go back to jail for us.
WHAT: “Why Are Some States Harassing a Volunteer Network That Helps the
Dying?” –a talk by Dr. Larry Egbert, medical director of Final Exit
Network, Baltimore, Md.
WHEN: Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: SLC Conference Center
352 Seventh Avenue – (29th/30th)
COST: We would appreciate a donation of $5 to help
cover the cost of the conference room.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Director of Communications
New York City Atheists
New York City Atheists
New York City Atheists Inc. is a 501C not-for-profit educational
association dedicated to the separation of church and state and to
promoting the atheist lifestyle and values. All are welcome, including
agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics and those who are
questioning and seeking.