Woman Throws Final Party Before Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Betsy Davis had ALS
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2016 2:40 AM CDT
Updated Aug 12, 2016 6:38 AM CDT
Betsy Davis smiles during the party with her family and friends in Ojai, Calif.    (Niels Alpert via AP)
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(Newser) – Betsy Davis spent the last years of her life losing control of her body as her illness worsened—but she could still control how she died, and she "turned her departure into a work of art," friend and cinematographer Niels Alpert says of the California artist's death. The 41-year-old, who in 2013 was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, threw a party for more than 30 friends and family that lasted through the weekend before her doctor-assisted suicide late last month, People reports. Davis, a painter and performance artist who invited guests from across the country to what she called a "rebirth," died under the state's physician-assisted suicide law, which took effect on June 9.

"You're all very brave for sending me off on my journey," she wrote in her invitation, which warned guests that "emotional stamina" would be required, the AP reports. "There are no rules," she wrote. "Wear what you want, speak your mind, dance, hop, chant, sing, pray, but do not cry in front of me. OK, one rule." After a weekend that included music, pizza, cocktails, individual chats with every guest, and a screening of favorite movie The Dance of Reality, most guests departed and Davis' bed was wheeled out to a hillside at sunset. Accompanied by her sister, her doctor, her massage therapist, and her caretaker, she took a lethal combination of drugs and died around four hours later. (Assisted suicide is legal in four other states and Canada, where the law won't cover American visitors.)

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