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Exit Newsletter - Profile of the Editor by Kay Carmichael

Chris Docker

One man who believes passionately in his work is Chris Docker, Executive Secretary (Director) of VESS (Exit). Principal author of Departing Drugs and co-author of Beyond Final Exit, he also pioneered the first extensive UK research into living wills and developed the EXIT Newsletter from its then 4-6 pages to its present internationally acclaimed format. But those are things he does in his spare time, often on top of an exhausting schedule of press interviews and public lectures. What keeps him going in a job which increasingly dominates his life and absorbs all his energy in his commitment to human rights?

It started at the age of 15 when, having read something of the more barbarous history of the Christian church and compared it with the gentler precepts of creeds like Buddhism, he wrote to his Anglican vicar* resigning from his religion. Later, working for a small publishers specialising in human rights and civil liberties, he was asked to investigate VESS. He became hooked and, after many years working on the committee and helping generally, took it on full time, abandoning a successful marketing career to live on a quarter of his previous salary.

Unacceptable though his lifestyle might be to many, he has no regrets. His salaried work, 40 hours a week in the VESS Office, he sees as the necessary nuts and bolts enabling essential stepping stones to be laid. "As voluntary societies grow, the internal politics become ever more unmanageable, but without VESS we would have very little hope of effecting any change. Working as staff rather than on the committee can be stressful, but it's given me the opportunity to make a lasting contribution in some areas."

The office work is not just routine work with added research. It's emotionally exhausting, and to help him cope with it and give whatever help is possible, Docker took a training course with the Samaritans. Mostly he is restricted to giving the caller space and freedom to talk, since giving personal advice is still illegal. His latest project has been to create a a website on the Internet, providing reference material and informed comment to thousands of supporters. "It's a two-way thing: we get news as it happens and in sufficient detail to work with, and we can now also expand our membership to sections of the public that wouldn't normally join VESS."

Chris Docker - writings on v.e. can be found in Departing Drugs and Beyond Final Exit, in Living Wills in Contemporary Issues in Law, Ethics & Medicine (Dartmouth Press), The Way Forward in Death, Dying and the Law (Dartmouth Press), as well as in EXIT Newsletter and the Dying in Dignity Mensa SIG News Journal. See also A Week in the Life (autobiographical), EXIT Newsletter Oct 1995.   Chris Docker's homepage

*This was a slight error on behalf of the noted activist and broadcaster Kay Carmichael. She wrote 'Anglican' instead of Church of England.

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