Terminally ill woman hosts party before ending her life

Betsy Davis, third from left, shared a special weekend with friends and family before taking her own life through  doctor-assisted suicide. Photo / AP
Betsy Davis, third from left, shared a special weekend with friends and family before taking her own life through doctor-assisted suicide. Photo / AP

When Betsy Davis invited friends and family to a two-day farewell party, she had one rule: no crying in front of her.

The 41-year-old performance artist, from California, suffered from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. She was to become one of the first people in California to end her life under the state's new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.

In the lead-up to the special gathering, Betsy had carefully arranged all the details, and shared her plans with her guests in the invitation.

Betsy, from California, had been suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease for three years before deciding to take her own life. Photo / AP
Betsy, from California, had been suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease for three years before deciding to take her own life. Photo / AP

The party, which she had dubbed her "rebirth", was to be a relaxed and happy affair. "There are no rules," Betsy wrote on the invitation. "Wear what you want, speak your mind, dance, hop, chant, sing, pray, but do not cry in front of me. Oh, OK one rule."

More than 30 people gathered at the house over the weekend of July 23-24, and there were endless cocktails, Betsy's favourite pizza, and a screening of one of her favourite movies.

A friend who went to the party said that while the event was challenging, he wouldn't have missed it for the world.

"For me and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that we would be there for her," Niels Alpert told the Daily Mail.

"The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in their suicide - that is not a normal thing, not a normal, everyday occurrence. In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming."

Throughout the weekend, Betsy went from room to room in her electric wheelchair, laughing with family and reconnecting with old friends.

Guests were invited to take an item from the house as a "Betsy souvenir", and her sister had attached sticky notes to various objects to explain their significance.

One friend brought a cello and played Betsy a song, before guests gathered to give their final messages and kiss her goodbye.

About 30 close friends gathered for the farewell party, and Betsy's only rule was no crying in front of her. Photo / AP
About 30 close friends gathered for the farewell party, and Betsy's only rule was no crying in front of her. Photo / AP

Dressed in a Japanese kimono she bought during a bucket-list trip after being diagnosed in 2013, Betsy was then calmly wheeled out to a bed on a nearby hillside where she died.

Betsy took her own life one month after the new law was introduced in California. Four other states in the US have allowed the controversial law after Oregon first adopted it in 1997.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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