Please read Stephen Drake's comments and respond to Time Magazine. on Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Time Magazine Article Misrepresents Final Exit Network and Who They "Help"
Alarmingly, several articles dealing with the FEN arrests/investigations have glossed over FEN's "assistance" of NON-terminally ill people, so that the theme that emerges is one that suggests that laws similar to Oregon's assisted suicide law would prevent people from being "forced" to resort to this kind of lawless behavior. Since FEN specializes in "helping" nonterminally ill individuals, it's a specious argument.
Time magazine, like other major media, doesn't seem to want to hear from anyone complaining about factual inaccuracy. They sure make the process hard enough. I ended up calling the main switchboard and using the voice directory, connected with editor Richard Stengel's office (his was the only name I knew). His secretary was helpful, especially when she found out I was quoted in the story. I emailed her the message below, which she informed me was forwarded to an appropriate staffer. I've made slight edits (e.g. omitting the final exit network URL here), but this is basically what was sent:
Dear Ms. _____, I will be publishing this critique on my blog this afternoon. The traffic is pretty heavy these days, considering the subject matter. I would sincerely appreciate being able to include a response from someone at Time in what I write. My blog is at: http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/Re: “Final Exit” story - http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1882418,00.html?imw=Y
Thank you for your time and attention – the concerns are listed below. –Stephen Drake
I was one of the persons interviewed by freelance reporter Paige Bowers for the article on the Final Exit Network that was published on March 2, titled “Final Exit Network: Compassionate Presence or Suicide Aid?”. I have no complaints about the accuracy of my own quotes as they are presented in the article.I have not heard from anyone at Time magazine since I received the reply from Mr. Stengel's secretary.
There is a very real problem – approaching real journalistic failure – with basic factual information given in the article.
Most of that is given right in the first paragraph:
“The crackdown on Final Exit Network, a group based in Marietta, Ga., that is accused of assisted suicide, has revived the right-to-die debate that was fueled in the 1990s by Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctor who assisted in the deaths of 130 terminally ill people. But Final Exit claims that its volunteers do not perform assisted suicides à la Kevorkian, who was convicted of second-degree murder and went to prison for giving a lethal injection to a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Rather, the group argues that it merely provides a "compassionate presence" for terminally ill people, giving them information about suicide if they request it.”
First, and this has been documented multiple times, the majority of Kevorkian’s “clients” weren’t terminally ill. Most had chronic conditions and disabilities. Some had no identifiable health condition at all. This was well documented as far back as 1997, when the staff of the Detroit Free Press undertook an extensive analysis of Kevorkian’s “clients” and his practices. It’s still available online at:
There are more recent journal articles that contain analyses yielding similar results, although not as accessible. I can provide these on request.
It’s possible to give Ms. Bowers a “pass” on the mischaracterization of Kevorkian, since most in the media seem to be strangely amnesiac about all this.
Having said that, there is absolutely no excuse for the characterization of “Final Exit Network” as providing a service for “terminally ill people.”
For starters, the two deaths under investigation involve a man in Georgia who was successfully treated for cancer and found cancer-free at autopsy. The second death involves a woman in Arizona who had no physical illnesses at all, but a long history of struggling with psychiatric issues.
This link is to an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that highlights the broad agenda of FEN:
Or go to the FEN site, which says, under "we serve":
Individuals with neurological illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and Alzheimer's disease often lose the reason and will to live long before their disease qualifies as "terminal." Others who are facing protracted, losing battles with cancer, stroke, congestive heart failure, emphysema and other incurable conditions yearn for dignified withdrawal rather than clinging desperately to every breath.
Many of these individuals are not being served. Final Exit Network will serve these and many others like them.
All of this information was available to Ms. Bowers.
This article could have been something to present a real debate rooted in the current news – whether or not one’s perception of one’s “quality of life” is a reason for suicide. Instead, the issue has been totally misrepresented as a case in which a group has “helped” terminally ill people in their “right to die” in states that haven’t legalized the practice.
In fact, the kind of people this group helps wouldn’t be eligible for assisted suicide in Oregon or Washington State. Probably not Montana, either, but things are still up in the air there, in terms of actual rules, guidelines and reporting.
Time magazine failed miserably in its duty to present basic facts accurately. The debate that followed within the article was worthless since it had nothing to do with the story it was supposed to be covering.
I think the public deserves better. Everything I’ve read about journalist ethics would support that view.
I hope that you agree.
Not Dead Yet
497 State St
Rochester, NY 14608-1642
This is too important to leave alone.
You can help.
If this seems outrageous and wrong to you, do something about it.
You can send a letter to the editor by using email@example.com.
And if you want to send an extra copy of what you send, I'd love to see them.
More later. --Stephen Drake
Link to the original blog comment by Stephen Drake: