Richard Walters, a leader in the effort to get Vermont to pass aid-in-dying legislation, used the rules established under the law to end his own life on Friday. He was 90 years old and had been battling cancer. Walters, the leader of Patient Choices Vermont, died at a retirement community where he had been staying, says the Necrason Group, a lobbying firm that worked with him. "Dick was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2014, yet continued to engage in significant discussions in connection with end of life choice," the group says a statement. "His health declined very rapidly over the past two months, and Dick was grateful to be able to direct his own end of life under Act 39."
The 2013 law allows a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to someone who is diagnosed as having six months or less to live and who requests it. Vermont was the first state to enact an aid-in-dying law through legislation; others had done so through referendum. Gov. Peter Shumlin said he spoke with Walters on Tuesday. "He was grateful for an extraordinary life and felt no anger or sadness about his illness," Shumlin says. He calls Walters courageous and says he "gave selflessly to the causes he believed in, including the right for terminally ill patients like himself to choose how they die." (Read more obituary stories.)