Oregon voters passed the Death With Dignity Act, the country’s first law permitting physician-assisted suicide, in November of 1994.
On March 24, 1998* one of the first legal assisted suicides under the law occurred when a woman in her 80s suffering from breast cancer for 20 years took a lethal dose of barbiturates washed down with a glass of brandy.
“I am looking forward to it because, being I was always active, I cannot possibly see myself living out two more months like this,” the Portland-area woman said in an audiotape recorded two days before her death and played for the media Wednesday. “That’s all. It’s just, I, I will be relieved of all the stress I have.”
The woman was having more and more difficulty breathing and her doctor had recently told her she had less than two months to live. Surrounded by family and her physician, she died in her sleep about five minutes after taking the drugs.
* A March 26, 1998 article in The Oregonian describes the case above, and also indicates that at least one other Oregonian died using the Death With Dignity Act previously, but the family decided not to release details to the press.