[JURIST] A Washington State woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer has become the first person to commit physician-assisted suicide under the state's Death with Dignity Act [text, PDF]. Linda Fleming had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and on Thursday took barbiturates prescribed by a doctor, dying approximately half an hour later. In a statement [text, PDF] issued through Washington advocacy group Compassion and Choices [official website] Fleming said:
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. 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. I am grateful that the Death with Dignity law provides me the choice of a death that fits my own personal beliefs.Washington voters passed the law [JURIST report] in November, and it took effect in March. Under the law, people diagnosed with a terminal illness and with less than six months to live are eligible to receive the medication. According to the Washington Department of Health, at least six other people in the state have received [Peninsula Daily News report] the required prescription for barbiturates. Washington is the second state in the country, after Oregon, to pass a right-to-die [JURIST news archive] law. A court in Montana ruled [JURIST report] in December that terminally ill patients have right to physician-assisted suicide.