American cancer patient hosts party before euthanasia

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Could you embrace your own death?

Betsy Davis from California, US was diagnosed with terminal illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) three years ago. The illness meant she would gradually lose her ability to initiate and control voluntary movement, much like fellow sufferer Steven Hawking. But most ALS sufferers can’t survive the later stages, when they can barely breathe or swallow.

13668730_1302105953163555_2548784341710071509_oPainter and performance artist Betsy decided to host a party to say farewell to her friends and embrace death at the age of 41, having reached a point at which she could no longer stand or brush her teeth.

In the beginning of July she emailed all her close friends and relatives, inviting them to attend a two-day weekend party on July 23-24. “These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before,” Betsy told them, “requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness.”

She set one ground rule: No crying in front of her.

Betsy scheduled a perfect timetable for every party event, including her own death. More than 30 attendees enjoyed the party, the wine, music and jokes. But the final moment eventually crept up on them. Every guest gave Betsy a farewell kiss before sending her to the “rebirth” she mentioned in her invitation.

13923370_1302105906496893_792409786881100859_o13920253_1302105899830227_2663787794970073075_oBetsy became one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state’s new doctor-assisted suicide law. She took the drugs at 6:45pm with her caretaker, her doctor, her massage therapist and her sister by her side, and died peacefully four hours later.

Doctor-assisted suicide is now allowed in five US states, with Oregon the first in 1997. Opponents are concerned that terminally ill people could be coerced into death, and that the law could become a way out for people who are uninsured or can’t afford high medical bills.

Controversy aside, friends said it was the final performance for Betsy, 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, one of her friend told Associated Press. “By taking charge, she turned her departure into a work of art.”