Wash. state woman 1st death under new suicide law

May 24, 2009 By RACHEL LA CORTE , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Linda Fleming was diagnosed with terminal cancer and feared her last days would be filled with pain and ever-stronger doses of medication that would erode her mind.

The 66-year-old woman with late-stage pancreatic cancer wanted to be clear-headed at death, so she became the first person to kill herself under Washington state's new assisted suicide law, known as "death with dignity."

"I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death," Fleming said in a statement released Friday. "The powerful pain medications were making it difficult to maintain the state of mind I wanted to have at my death. And I knew I would have to increase them."

With family members, her physician and her dog at her side, Fleming took a deadly dose of prescription barbiturates and died Thursday night at her home in Sequim, Wash.

Chris Carlson, who campaigned against the new law with the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, called the death unfortunate.

"Any is a sad occasion and it diminishes us all," he said.

Compassion & Choices of Washington, an advocacy group that aids people who seek to use the law, announced her death.

Last November, Washington became the second state to have a voter-approved assisted suicide law. It is based on a law adopted by Oregon voters in 1997. Since then, about 400 people have used the Oregon law to end their lives.

In December, a district judge in Montana ruled that doctor-assisted suicides are legal in that state. That decision, based on an individual lawsuit rather than a state law or voter initiative, is before the Montana Supreme Court.

Doctors in Montana are allowed to write prescriptions for life-ending drugs pending the appeal. But it's unknown whether any actually have because there's no reporting process in place.

Under the Washington law, any patient requesting fatal medication must be at least 18, declared mentally competent and be a resident of the state.

Additionally, two doctors must certify that the patient has a terminal condition and six months or less to live, and the patient must make two oral requests 15 days apart, plus a written request that is witnessed by two people. Patients must also administer the drugs themselves.

Under the Washington measure, as in Oregon, doctors and pharmacists are not required to write or fill lethal prescriptions if they oppose the law. Some hospitals have opted out, which precludes their doctors from participating on hospital property.


On the Net:

Center for Health Statistics, Death with Dignity Act: http://www.doh.wa.gov/dwda/formsreceived.htm

Compassion & Choices of Washington: http://www.candcofwa.org

True Compassion Advocates: http://www.truecompassionadvocates.org/index.html

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 5

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4.8 / 5 (5) May 24, 2009
if someone wantsto take themselves out, why stop them, its their choice...plus it frees up the resources they would have used for someone not about to off themselves :)
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2009
It's hard to argue against the intent of this kind of law since the alternative is akin to torture. My only question is whether it's existence will stimulate suicidal ideas in people who are just in a temporary fix.
5 / 5 (4) May 25, 2009
Sometimes death better than life. At middle ages there were coup de grace for deathly wounded men. I think "death with dignity" something like coup de grace with the help of medicine.
5 / 5 (3) May 25, 2009
Chris Carlson, who campaigned against the new law with the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, called the death unfortunate.

This is an example of the worst kind of human being, a self-serving arrogant fuck who thinks he has the right to sentence others to unbearable torture.

I hope he will be dying for years in extreme pain so that he can be cured of his appalling ignorance.
5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2009
As with most of todays issues, there is little profit to be made taking the logical, compasionate and humane option. Therefore Bigpharma will do all it can to prevent people from taking this option. I find it disgusting that corporations would rather see someone suffer (so that they can sell them an expensive med that will lengthen thier struggle by a little) than let people have the freedom of choice.

It's nice to hear that a couple of states are allowing people to decide thier own fate.

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