Former “Medical Director” of Final Exit Network Profiled in Wash. Post, Live Chat Monday 2:00 pm ET

Readers of this blog are familiar with the Final Exit Network (FEN), the assisted suicide vigilante cult that has gotten into legal trouble in two states over the roles members of FEN played in facilitating the suicides of a man in Georgia and a woman in Arizona.

The common denominator in both cases is the (now ex) “medical director” of FEN, Lawrence Egbert.  The Washington Post profiled him in the Lifestyle section of its magazine last week.  The Washington Post is also hosting a live chat with Egbert on its site today – January 23 – at 2:00 pm ET.

I just want to share an excerpt from the Post’s profile on Egbert, with some comment.  I’ll provide info to access the live chat for those who are interested at the end of this post.

From the profile:

About John Celmer, the person “assisted” by FEN in Georgia:

At various times, Sue Celmer said, he was taking Chantix to try to quit smoking, and taking oxycodone or applying morphine patches to manage his constant pain. “Anybody who takes that many drugs is in no position to make decisions about their lives,” she said. “He was like a drowning man, and they saw it as a grand opportunity to promote their agenda and drown him.”

Sue and John Celmer had lived separately for years, but were still close.  A couple of things might have tweaked some kind of red flag for Egbert if he was really into anything other than rubber-stamping applications – Chantix is a drug used to quit smoking; why would someone serious about killing themselves be trying to quit smoking?  And then there’s the Chantix, a medication used to aid people in quitting smoking.  Even at the time of Celmer’s “application” to FEN, both depression and thoughts of suicide were known to be possible, albeit allegedly rare, side effects of taking that medication.  Since then, it turns out the risks aren’t so rare.  Just last November, researchers reported that Chantix was anything but a “safe” drug:

The new study relies on adverse events from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System from 1998 through September 2010. They analyzed 3,249 reports of serious self-injury or depression linked to Chantix (varenicline), GlaxoSmithKline’s Zyban (bupropion) antidepressant that was approved for smoking cessation and nicotine replacement products.

They found that 2,925 cases, or 90 percent, of suicidal behavior or depression reported to the FDA were related to Chantix, even though the drug was only approved for four of the nearly 13 years of data included in the study.

Granted, this data wasn’t available at the time of Celmer’s “application” to FEN, but the possibility that Celmer’s wish to commit suicide was medication-induced was something anyone other than a zealot would have considered.

In the profile, Egbert denies he’s a “true believer” aka “zealot,” but the approval rate he claims to have to his credit – almost everyone – is far higher than the claims Kevorkian made.  While impossible to substantiate, Kevorkian claimed he only aided a small percentage of those who contacted him.

Egbert is a quieter and politer man than Kevorkian, and people (like the reporter at the Washington Post) are less likely to brand him a zealot?

But what is it that marks someone as a zealot?  Their manners and demeanor?  Or their actions?

I vote for actions – and by that standard both Egbert and Kevorkian more than qualify as zealots and fanatics, even if one of them is soft-spoken and polite.

You can access the live chat here at 2:00 pm ET.  –Stephen Drake

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