First person to “die with dignity” under new Wash. state law

Linda Fleming has become the first person to die under the new Washington state law allowing “death with dignity.” Fleming, 66, was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer last month. She made the decision to die with dignity. With the help of her physicians and Compassion and Choices of Washington, she considered her choices and made her own end of life decisions.

“I had only recently learned how to live in the world as I had always wanted to, and now I will no longer be here. So my fatal disease arrived at a most inopportune time,”  said Linda. Read more about her circumstances here.

Thursday evening, Linda, with her family, dog and physician at her bedside took  the prescribed medication to end her life with dignity.

Linda died peacefully knowing that she had a choice in controlling her suffering and time of death from terminal cancer.

The death with dignity movement is not to be confused with assisted suicide. Death with dignity adds another option for patients who are dying from a terminal illness. Oftentimes, the two terms are wrongly interchanged by the public, media and legal authorities.

Jack Kevorkian, nicknamed “Dr Death”, brought the issue of death with dignity out into the open.  He was charged with second degree murder in 1999 after he gave a lethal injection to a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mr. Kevorkian challenged the courts and was sentenced to prison.

Death with dignity continues to be a polarizing subject to many. Openly discussed and legally practiced in Oregon and Washington while perhaps being pushed underground in the rest of the country.

In recent news, last Feb. 25, Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged two Final Exit guides with racketeering, tampering with evidence and violation of “assisted suicide laws” and froze the groups’ assets after an agent, posing as a terminally ill cancer patient persuaded network members to be taken through the steps that would lead to his death.

Currently, in Arizona, charges of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit manslaughter have been issued to four people who were part of a right to die organization called Final Exit Network. The Final Exit Network  is being investigated by the FBI and police agencies in eight states where death with dignity is outlawed.

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