One of the saddest essays I have ever read appeared in the New Yorker in May 1995, written by a young man, Andrew Solomon, who was coming to terms with his mother's death. She had been battling cancer—and lost. The week she was diagnosed with it, she announced that she was going to kill herself.

And she did, less than two years later. She picked the day (June 19, 1991) and the outfit (her nightgown with pink roses), and following the step-by-step instructions published in "Let Me Die Before I Wake" ("a less explicit precursor of Derek Humphrey's Final Exit"), she began the preliminary steps for "self-deliverance." She took the antiemetics followed with a light snack. The Hemlock Society recommends having a plastic bag (and a taut rubber band) on hand as well. Step 11 of a manual published by ergo! (the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization, started by Humphrey when he left the Hemlock Society in 1992) suggests that, in the event the pills don't do it: "Place the plastic bag (or bags) over the head and draw the elastic bands over the bag, securing it firmly around the adam's apple area. There must be no leaks."

After tea and an English muffin, Mrs. Solomon nestled into her bed, and, as her family gathered around her, she spilled some 40 Seconal tablets onto her bedspread, scooped them, and like a "virtuoso" swallowed them all, "two or three at a time."

"Surely this is better than your seeing me screaming in a hospital bed," she said. For the subsequent 45 minutes of her final moments of consciousness, she said all those things that a wife and mother longs to say. And she said this: "I'm sad today. I'm sad to be going… ."

Her son wrote in retrospect: "Euthanasia is a legitimate way to die, and at its best it is full of ...

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