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Terminally ill woman holds party before ending her life

Rockinruby

Ideal_Rock
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Dec 27, 2013
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I watched a documentary a few years ago that featured an Oregon woman who chose to take her life rather than live with the pain of cancer. This story reminded me of the documentary, but this person lives in CA. It sounds like she had a beautiful last few days with her friends and family.

What do you think? Would you ever consider going to a party like this? I'm curious because PS members often think of things or have perspectives that I would never have thought of. :wavey:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/california-woman-holds-party-killing-195406307.html

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In early July, Betsy Davis emailed her closest friends and relatives to invite them to a two-day party, telling them: "These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness."

And just one rule: No crying in front of her.

The 41-year-old artist with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, held the gathering to say goodbye before becoming one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state's new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.

"For me and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that we would be there for her," said Niels Alpert, a cinematographer from New York City.

"The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in their suicide — that is not a normal thing, not a normal, everyday occurrence. In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming."

Davis worked out a detailed schedule for the gathering on the weekend of July 23-24, including the precise hour she planned to slip into a coma, and shared her plans with her guests in the invitation.

More than 30 people came to the party at a home with a wraparound porch in the picturesque Southern California mountain town of Ojai, flying in from New York, Chicago and across California.

One woman brought a cello. A man played a harmonica. There were cocktails, pizza from her favorite local joint, and a screening in her room of one of her favorite movies, "The Dance of Reality," based on the life of a Chilean film director.

As the weekend drew to a close, her friends kissed her goodbye, gathered for a photo and left, and Davis was wheeled out to a canopy bed on a hillside, where she took a combination of morphine, pentobarbital and chloral hydrate prescribed by her doctor.

Kelly Davis said she loved her sister's idea for the gathering, which Betsy Davis referred to as a "rebirth."

"Obviously it was hard for me. It's still hard for me," said Davis, who wrote about it for the online news outlet Voice of San Diego. "The worst was needing to leave the room every now and then, because I would get choked up. But people got it. They understood how much she was suffering and that she was fine with her decision. They respected that. They knew she wanted it to be a joyous occasion."

Davis ended her life a little over a month after a California law giving the option to the terminally ill went into effect. Four other states allow doctor-assisted suicide, with Oregon the first in 1997.

Opponents of the law in lobbying against it before state legislators argued that hastening death was morally wrong, that it puts terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death by loved ones and could become a way out for people who are uninsured or fearful of high medical bills.

Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, said her heart goes out to anyone dealing with a terminal illness, but "there are still millions of people in California threatened by the danger of this law."

Davis spent months planning her exit, feeling empowered after spending the last three years losing control of her body bit by bit. The painter and performance artist could no longer stand, brush her teeth or scratch an itch. Her caretakers had to translate her slurred speech for others.

"Dear rebirth participants you're all very brave for sending me off on my journey," she wrote in her invitation. "There are no rules. Wear what you want, speak your mind, dance, hop, chant, sing, pray, but do not cry in front of me. OK, one rule."

During the party, old friends reconnected and Davis rolled in and out of the rooms in her electric wheelchair and onto the porch, talking with her guests.

At one point, she invited friends to her room to try on the clothes she had picked out for them. They modeled the outfits to laughter. Guests were also invited to take a "Betsy souvenir" — a painting, beauty product or other memento. Her sister had placed sticky notes on the items, explaining each one's significance.

Wearing a Japanese kimono she bought on a bucket-list trip she took after being diagnosed in 2013, she looked out at her last sunset and took the drugs at 6:45 p.m. with her caretaker, her doctor, her massage therapist and her sister by her side. Four hours later, she died.

Friends said it was the final performance for the artist, who once drew pictures on a stage with whipped cream.

"What Betsy did gave her the most beautiful death that any person could ever wish for," Alpert said. "By taking charge, she turned her departure into a work of art."

Her guests agreed to meet again on her birthday in June to scatter her ashes
 

ksinger

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I'd consider going. It would be very hard though. I'm not sure I could put on the required brave face.

I would certainly never judge anyone for doing it though. ALS? My mother died of ALS, and to say it's brutal doesn't even fall in the ballpark. Watching her slowly starve to death was the hardest thing I've ever done. A party with morphine at the end would have been far preferable.
 

dk168

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I shall not go into details, however, I shall definitely make an effort to spend time with my dearests and closests before departing from this Earth.

Not sure if I would have a party to gather everyone together as it would not be an easy task, and a bit too diva-ish to me.

I would probably have a road trip and go and visit everyone individually to say goodbye instead.

If there is a terminal illness, I would ask the medical professionals how long I have left realistically, so that I can plan and sort out my finances and affairs.

If it is a chronic degenerative condition, I would sort myself out before I am a burden to anyone.

I have talked about this often with my dearests and closests, therefore, it will not come as a surprise to them.

DK :))
 

kenny

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I'd certainly go! Absolutely.
 

missy

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I would go to honor my friend's wishes and very last request and put on the brave face necessary because she was ending it the way she wanted to and doing the best she could under these horrible circumstances. I would get all my crying out before the party (and do as much crying after the party as I needed to) so I could grant her this last wish.

I admire how these brave people take control and face death under circumstances that are beyond their control. Their courage and bravery in the face of death and the way they take back the control is awe inspiring.
 

NTave

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ALS is a terrible way to die. I have seen it take the lives of two of my close family members, which makes me believe it may be the rare genetic version (no testing was done). I commend this woman for taking control of her own demise, which was much more beautiful then her alternative. I'll never forget watching one of my family members make healthcare decision to not extend his life with ALS (was in hospital and chose not to ventilate), it was something that I have never let go of.
 

ksinger

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NTave|1470999632|4065102 said:
ALS is a terrible way to die. I have seen it take the lives of two of my close family members, which makes me believe it may be the rare genetic version (no testing was done). I commend this woman for taking control of her own demise, which was much more beautiful then her alternative. I'll never forget watching one of my family members make healthcare decision to not extend his life with ALS (was in hospital and chose not to ventilate), it was something that I have never let go of.
I'm sorry you have those indelible memories too. It may be cowardly of me, but it's why I pointedly ignored the ice bucket challenge. It was too in yer face for me to deal with. ALS is still the worst, because there is no escaping it. I have MS and could end up in basically the same condition, but I have at least a decent chance of not.

There's a reason that diseases like ALS and MS are at the top of those that drive people to assisted suicide.
 

Arcadian

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Yes I would. I love parties and intensely I hate funerals. Went to my grandmothers funeral under duress as my mom begged for me to be there and I STILL to this day regret doing so. Will miss my mom and dads (mom said she doesn't want one, dad says she's having one) I don't want the last memory of my folks tainted by seeing them in a box to be put in the ground. Funerals to me are disgusting and gory, plus I hate the smell of whatever the hell they use to pickle folks and all the flowers in the world can't cover that smell for me.

Never would have thought it but my mom is totally cool with the thought of having a party and checking out afterwards. She has Lupus which is robbing her of the ability to live a normal life.

My sister has Leukemia and she's also in the same boat. She told me that she would rather go with her dignity intact, and not have someone pity her as she leaves here. I told her if I can make it happen she will get to leave here on her terms.
 

momhappy

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I would go and support a loved one. I'm glad that people have more power over how they choose to live and die...
 

chrono

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I would; I prefer to celebrate life over being too focused on death.
 

marymm

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momhappy|1471007478|4065126 said:
I would go and support a loved one. I'm glad that people have more power over how they choose to live and die...
+1
 

Puppmom

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I would absolutely go! I'm sure I would feel sick to my stomach in anticipation but I would go.

One of our very best friends was diagnosed with ALS at 36 years old. My heart breaks for him, his wife and his children although he doesn't tolerate anyone feeling sorry for him. At this point, he says he's in it for the long haul and plans on all available interventions which I think is brave of him and his family. I think it's equally brave to take control in a different way and choose when to die.

I'm sorry to those of you who have lost someone close to you die of ALS.
 

Bayek

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After seeing my brother go through excrutiating unbearable pain of metastatic lung cancer I would do it in a nano... less than actually.. Actually I would forego chemo completely unless I would be cured or have a reasonable life for several years.. I admire this woman, we live our lives on our own terms. I can understand why people fear this though, they see it as next up: disabled people (mentally, physically, insane etc)... I don't see that at all but I do understand that fear.
 

lyra

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I wouldn't be able to attend such a party if crying wasn't an option. I wear my heart on my sleeve and can't control that kind of emotion. But I love the idea and would totally support anyone considering this. I really don't know what I would do myself in that kind of situation. I just wouldn't want to be any kind of burden on anyone in my family. Not physically, or emotionally.
 

Calliecake

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I would definitely go and support my friend. I wish this was legal in all states. Everyone deserves the right to make the choice for themselves when facing a painful death.
 

PintoBean

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Reminds me of the movie "it's my party" with Eric Roberts... ;(
 

Rockinruby

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Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful replies. I was wondering if I could go to something like this for a loved one. I would absolutely want to go, but I'm not sure that I could abide by the no tears rule. I'm glad everyone has shared some different perspectives because this does sound like a better way to take control if you are in terrible pain or other,

:wavey:
 

Marquise_Madness

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I've been to one of these parties, but she died naturally of ovarian cancer because ending one's life with assistance isn't legal in my state.

She had a beautiful party and she had cancer, was in remission, and it came back so she had a party before it was bad. It was a lovely party and she was in good spirits. She also wrote a chemo survivor's guide before she died as a resource for others who have cancer.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

rainydaze

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What a beautiful story, in the face of such sadness. I am happy she was able to go out with such grace and dignity, surrounded by love and joy. She was dealt a raw hand, and had the opportunity to go out on her terms, not the disease's. I think that should be an option we are all afforded in the face of bleak circumstances.

I would go, absolutely. But I would have had a hard time with the 'no crying' edict. For me, and for many others, crying would be inevitable in a situation like this. It's a natural and healthy outlet for when we are overwhelmed with emotion, and I am not a fan of monitoring or stifling that. But of course, if that was my friend's wish, then I would do my very best to honor it.
 

Sphene

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I would want to go to be supportive but not sure I could hold back the tears. I saw a documentary on a man who was going to Switzerland to end his life he had a similar party (very very brave of him and his family to allow filming) if I remember correctly there was a lot of laughter and tears. He did say the party was to thank his friends and family for the love and support they had given him over the years and tell them he loved them and had had a good life and not to be sad at his passing.
 
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