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Under new law, death is first for Washington

By The Associated Press Modified: May 23, 2009 at 2:06 am •  Published: May 23, 2009
OLYMPIA, Wash. — It took a few weeks for the end of Linda Fleming’s life to rush painfully into focus.

Diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, Fleming pictured her last days filled with growing agony and the only relief coming from doses of medicine. She feared they would dull her mind.

So, she decided to take her own life Thursday, becoming the first reported suicide under the state’s "death with dignity” law.

"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 "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.”

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

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

In Washington, any patient requesting fatal medication must be at least 18, declared competent and be a resident. Two doctors have to certify the patient has six months or less to live.

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