Who’s Who: AIDS and Assisted Suicide Activism

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Barbara Coombs Lee, Director, Compassion & Choices

“These were people who were on the front lines at the height of the AIDS epidemic. People whom they loved and people whom they served were jumping from balconies and using guns and doing all manner of horrific things to avoid the terrible death that they had witnessed their partners or their loved ones endure.”
—Barbara Coombs Lee

barbara-c-lee

Florent Morellet (floor-aunt more-lay)

He is now a board member of National Compassion and Choices and president of Compassion and Choices New York.

Florent_MorelletMorellet at “AIDS in New York: the first five years” retrospective in 2003.

On the death of Rock Hudson:

“Oh, yes, that was a great death,” he said, recalling that news [of Rock Hudson] as a turning point in the AIDS movement.  “When I say great death, you need a front-page death that goes into homes all over the country.”

From haunting sex clubs to restaurateur, from AIDS donor to joining Compassion & Choices to promote suicide.

In 1987, Florent became an advocate of aid in dying and joined the board of Choice in Dying, a Manhattan-based national human rights group. He is now a board member of National Compassion and Choices and president of Compassion and Choices New York. http://www.amfar.org/in-the-spotlight/awards-of-courage/2006-honoring-with-pride-florent-morellet/

A photo of the Anvil, a gay sex club, takes him back to when he discovered the meatpacking district, emerging from the club at 3 a.m. to find robust street life, inspiring him to open his restaurant nearby in 1985.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/fashion/aids-in-new-york-being-alive-was-beyond-belief-for-some.html

“Great Sex! Don’t let AIDS stop it,” said Mr. Morellet, reading from a 1984 poster on safe-sex practices, which showed two men in semi-dress in a locker room. “At this point, information is coming out. I remember that poster. It’s adorable!”

“Saying I was H.I.V. positive in 1987 was a piece of cake,” he said.

At the end, he glanced at the announcement of Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS in 1985. “Oh, yes, that was a great death,” he said, recalling that news as a turning point in the AIDS movement. “When I say great death, you need a front-page death that goes into homes all over the country.”

http://glaa.org/archive/2015/glaaondeathwithdignityact0710.pdf


David Mixner.  Admits he euthanasized eight who had AIDS.  Life Site News. Wesley J. Smith

I moved to San Francisco at the height of the AIDS catastrophe. The underground euthanasia network Mixner described was well known.  This was the time I began my anti-assisted suicide activism,  As my public profile rose, I would be invited to debate in SF about The City’s underground euthanasia network.

In debating the underground killing network it became clear how subjective the kill decision was for assisters. One doctor told me in a debate that he wouldn’t do it unless the patient got below 90 pounds. That was his personal line and he stuck to it!  I challenged him:”But your colleagues have different lines, don’t they?” He admitted they did. Some didn’t wait very far along in the death process at all.

Also, I sensed that the assisted suicide virus was as contagious as HIV. Dying in that way came to be seen as an act of defiance against an oppressive culture. The idea was, “You can’t tell us who to love or how to die,”–astonishing to me at the time that gay rights would be conjoined with the killing of (mostly) gay men.


Derek Humphry.

At AIDS Epicenter, Seeking Swift, Sure Death.  NYT.

SAN FRANCISCO, June 20, 1993   Scores of gay men gathered last week in a church meeting room here, at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, to learn which drugs to use for suicide, how to avoid a botched attempt and whether to involve their loved ones and doctors.

The unusual how-to seminar was led by Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society and the author of a best-selling suicide manual, who said that teaching people to kill themselves was a “sad commentary on our society” but a logical development in a country that largely outlaws doctor-assisted suicide.

“If people are revolted by what I’m saying and doing, then we must change the law,” said Mr. Humphry, whose presentation here included a demonstration of how to use a plastic bag and a rubber band for self-asphyxiation. “I’d be only too willing to stop.”

The seminar broke no laws, many legal scholars and medical ethicists said, despite statutes in 29 states, California among them, that say aiding, advising or encouraging another to commit suicide is a felony.

Those laws are intended to prohibit one-on-one, hands-on intervention, these experts explained. Seminars and books on the subject are widely assumed to be protected by the Constitution’s free-speech guarantees.

But the seminar here adds a dimension to the nation’s legal and moral struggle over assisted suicide. Initiatives to legalize doctor-assisted suicide are expected to come again before the voters in several Western states next year and in 1996. And it remains a subject of impassioned debate elsewhere, largely because of the defiant activities of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who has helped 15 people die in Michigan with a homemade suicide machine. The Surest Way to Die

The seminar here was advertised in Bay Area gay newspapers and attended by more than 150 people, who were asked for a $10 donation. A few had cancer, or were friends or relatives of someone who did. But most were gay men with AIDS.

Few of them were interested in the commercial aspects of the event, like the “Do Not Resuscitate” T-shirts and the discounted memberships in the Hemlock Society. Fewer still cared for the New Age trappings, like the warbling soprano who opened the program with a song about letting go of the past.

Full story at link.


 


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