There was pizza and chilli, dancing, photo-taking and lots and lots of alcohol at the party 41-year-old Betsy Davis threw in July earlier this year in Ojai in Southern California. There were 30 of her closest friends and family, who flew all across America to be there. There was laughter, there were gifts. The party was so good it lasted two days. Nobody wanted to leave.
In these respects, Betsy’s party wasn’t unique. But in one other, integral matter it was. This was a party celebrating Betsy’s life, just days before she took a lethal dose of drugs to end it. Betsy was suffering from terminal ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was one of the first Californians to choose assisted suicide under the state’s recently passed bill legalising the practice, The Guardian reports.
“These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness,” the invitation to the party read.
Her family and friends turned out in droves, and abided by her single rule for the event (no crying).
“Under her guidance, I’d put sticky notes next to items around the house, explaining their significance,” her sister Kelly Davis told an American website. “She invited everyone to “take a Betsy souvenir” to remember her.”
When the weekend was over, Betsy changed into a beautiful purple kimono she had purchased on a trip to Japan, and was driven to a nearby hillside, where there was “a white canopy and a makeshift bed,” Kelly remembers. There, Kelly took the medicine that would legally end her life. “She wanted to fall asleep as the sun was setting,” Kelly wrote.
California is the fifth state in America to pass “end of life” legislation in support of assisted suicide. The first was Oregon, who passed the legislation almost 10 years ago.
“My sister is an example of exactly what the law intended to do: allow a dying young woman the ability to assert control over the chaos and uncertainty of terminal illness,” Kelly wrote. “She turned death into a reason to celebrate, and she was there to enjoy the party.”
Assisted suicide is illegal in Australia. If you are in need of counselling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.