Derek Humphry

On this date in 1930, journalist, author and activist Derek Humphry was born in Bath, England. Growing up in a broken home during World War II, Humphry received a substandard childhood education. He attended close to a dozen different schools before leaving the school system at the age of 15 to pursue a career in journalism. He worked for the Yorkshire Post as an editorial manager prior to being drafted for the British Army at age 18.

Not long after his service, he resumed his career in journalism and became a reporter on the Manchester Evening News, the largest evening UK newspaper. During his journalism career, Humphry specialized in issues of race relations, immigration, prison conditions, police brutality and corruption. This led to the production of Because They’re Black (1971), a book that argued for racial harmony in Britain and won him the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize.

In 1978 he accepted a position as a special feature writer for the Los Angeles Times and moved to the U.S. The same year he published Jean’s Way, based on the death of his first wife from breast cancer. Humphry firmly believes in the right to die and has spent many decades advocating the legal practice of euthanasia. He has written a number of books on euthanasia, including Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying (1991), which marked the emergence of the Death with Dignity movement in the United States, Freedom to Die: People, Politics & The Right-To-Die Movement (1998) and Good Life, Good Death: The Memoir of a Right to Die Pioneer (2017).

He co-founded the Hemlock Society in 1980. It later split into two separate organizations — Compassion and Choices and Final Exit Network. Compassion and Choices focuses on legislative change while Final Exit Network focuses on the need for compassionate support for those suffering from incurable diseases. In a 1995 interview, Humphry was asked if he was a religious person and replied that he is an atheist.

Freedom From Religion Foundation