Lawrence Egbert, a retired anesthesiologist from Baltimore, has been present for 100 suicides in the last 15 years. But he is more reluctant in his leading role, in contrast to the late Jack Kevorkian:
I ask Egbert how much helium it takes to kill a person. “I don’t know,” he says. He recommends buying 50-liter tanks. “I know we have two tanks, and we run them to zero. Until they stop hissing. … It’s better to have too much than too little.”
I find myself staring at one of the hoods, turning it over and over, trying to comprehend how someone could spend the final moments of life with this thing over his head. I tell Egbert that the hoods make me feel uncomfortable.
He responds in a reed-thin voice, with the manner of a country doctor: “I hope so.”