In 2008, we worked with our local partners Compassion & Choices of Washington to pass Washington’s Death with Dignity Act through a ballot initiative. With over 58% of voters approving I-1000, Washington became the second US state to enact a law emulating our model legislation which allows terminally ill adults the right to control the timing and manner of their own deaths.
This effort happened with the help of hundreds of hours of work by thousands of volunteers. One prominent, dedicated volunteer before and after the campaign was Barbara Coffin. On Tuesday this week, she said goodbye to her loved ones and exercised her right under Washington’s Death with Dignity Act. She died in her daughter’s arms.
In an interview with KOMO News she shared why she chose to plan her own death stating, “Right now everything hurts. It hurts to move, it hurts to get up and down, hurts to take a breath. I have no energy. It’s hard to look at me on the outside and understand how bad I am on the inside. So it might be hard to understand how ready I am.”
After completing the request process she invited her closest friends and family for a farewell party. Together, they laughed and cried as they shared memories and stories. A week later, she gathered a handful of people closest to her, laid down on her bed, and drank the liquid medication. She soon fell asleep, and not long after, she died.
Barbara’s reasons for requesting and taking the medication allowed under Washington’s law are similar to the reasons I hear from others; she’s made decisions throughout her entire life and simply wanted control over her final life decision. Having been so deeply involved in the campaign, Barbara was no stranger to the controversy that once surrounded Washington’s Death with Dignity Act and she summed up how she felt about those who disagreed with her stating, “I think everybody has the right to an opinion, but we as humans have a right to do with what we want with our bodies.”
Barbara’s dedicated advocacy for Death with Dignity will be missed. Her final public message shared through the TV interview are words for all of us to live by: “Be kind to people you don’t know; do some random acts of kindness and the world will be a better place.”
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