AP: Final Exit Network manual calls members “special”

Many people with disabilities have a deep-seated loathing of the word “special.” It’s a term of dismissal, patronization, and discrimination. And that’s just a starting list. Unfortunately until “special education” and “special olympics” get called by other names, we don’t have a prayer of shaking the term off for any length of time with any large group of people.

It turns out there is a group, though, that has embraced its inner specialness.

Early this morning, the Associated Press issued its newest article on the Final Exit Network. I’ve been waiting for this one to hit, since I’ve known for several weeks that it was coming. I was interviewed by Amanda Lee Myers, the reporter who wrote this story.

General comments: This is the best example of real journalism that I’ve seen since this story broke. Myers went to all sources on this. The Final Exit Network (FEN) members get their say. I’m in there to.

But the most powerful “voice” in the article is the FEN’s own training manual. The AP obtained the a police report on the FEN that contained the contents of the training manual. It’s not exactly a public relations officials idea of dream material.

The article has various titles and is in over 130 news sites, according to google. Here’s the one from MSNBC, which doesn’t link to the FEN site:

PHOENIX – A training manual for an assisted-suicide group tells “exit guides” that they are special people and should celebrate their role in guiding others to their deaths.

The lengthy document, referred to by police in the U.S. city of Phoenix as a training manual for the Final Exit Network, offers exit guides step-by-step instructions on how to show others how to kill themselves by breathing in helium. Guides also are told how to dispose of the equipment used in the death and position the bodies so they look like they died of natural causes.

The manual encourages the guides, telling them they are compassionately guiding suffering people to their deaths during “a special time.”

Special people, special times, it’s all just so… special. Wait! There’s more…

“You, as the first responder, are a special person,” the manual says. “You all were attracted to this program because of a compassionate interest … Sometimes that means to ‘hear’ a desperation that the member does not know how to communicate and softly voice it for them.”

‘A sense of celebration’
The manual tells guides that if they’ve planned carefully, they can “anticipate this special day with a sense of peace and celebration.”

Considering the text of the article, my own quotes don’t stand out as extreme, for a change. They’re the same kind of comments I always make, but this time they’re in the context of a real news story instead of a softball treatment of FEN as some kind of “human interest” story:

Stephen Drake of the Rochester, New York-based group Not Dead Yet, which is against assisted suicide, compared Final Exit Network and the wording in its training manual to a cult and said it’s hard to distinguish what the group does from murder.

“What they do is reduce ambivalence,” he said. “I submit that anybody whose conditions for committing suicide is that they have to have someone around them to make sure that they don’t screw it up and they’re not alone is ambivalent. There are lots of people who want to commit suicide and they just do it.”

Just a word about my comment. When I made my remarks about murder, it was in reaction to being told that the manual did contain instructions for holding the hands of the person down after the plastic bag over the head – I don’t remember the exact wording but the idea was that it was necessary to do that so that involuntary movements didn’t end up tearing the bag loose. Obviously, all it takes is one single instance of stopping an purposeful attempt to tear the bag off and “assistance” becomes murder.

They want to be “special”? Personally, I’d call it something else. But please keep them away from short yellow school buses – especially short yellow school buses carrying anyone I know and care about. –Stephen Drake

4 thoughts on “AP: Final Exit Network manual calls members “special”

  1. I’d bet that all these so-called exit guides are quiet, unassuming, law-abiding citizens who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

  2. Well, I wouldn’t expect people who don’t give a flip about killing us special folk to have any special sensitivity about inclusive language!

  3. “Sometimes that means to ‘hear’ a desperation that the member does not know how to communicate and softly voice it for them.”

    That is scary, subtle and downright devilish. IMHO

  4. I think your statement, Stephen, “What they do is reduce ambivalence…” is gentle and understated, and to the point you are making.

    Like many others, I do not appreciate being called “special”. (In addition to “special”, I don’t like being called “inspirational”. I recently had to remind a friend, that a comment made about disabled people “who might be isolated and bitter” in re artists I have known, was a myth, especially the “angry, bitter” stereotype of people with disabilities that is so long and ongoing in the media and fiction, including movies.)

    Every time I see that line about helium, I think: I am not a balloon. What irony: balloons filled with helium are sold with “Happy Birthday” or “Get Well” printed on them,for someone having a birthday or, the latter, for someone who is ill, and helium – that’s the …
    (weapon, tool?) of Final Exit Network’s “guides”, “help”, “assist”.

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