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Cancer patient first to use Washington's assisted suicide law

  • Story Highlights
  • 66-year-old woman with stage 4 pancreatic cancer chooses to die
  • Woman wanted to be "clear-minded and alert at the time of my death"
  • Washington's law was approved by about 60 percent of voters in November
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SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- A 66-year-old woman with stage 4 pancreatic cancer became the first person to use Washington's assisted suicide law, a nonprofit organization announced Friday.

Compassion & Choices, an organization that says it advocates choice for the terminally ill, said Linda Fleming of Sequim, took her prescribed medication and died Thursday evening at home with her family, her dog and her physician.

She had been diagnosed a month ago with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was told she was "actively dying," Compassion & Choices said in a written statement.

"The pain became unbearable, and it was only going to get worse," Fleming said, according to the organization.

It said Fleming had worked with the organization's volunteers to consider her choices. "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," she said, according to Compassion & Choices. "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."

Washington's law was approved by about 60 percent of voters in November. A similar law in Oregon passed in 1994.

Oregon says 401 people have died under the terms of its law.

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