Death with Dignity advocate: 'Remember me happy and alive'

Death with Dignity advocate: 'Remember me happy and alive'
Barbara Coffin
SEATTLE -- It's been five years since the state of Washington enacted the "Death with Dignity" law, which gives terminally ill people the right to take their own lives, if two medical doctors certify that they have less than 6-months to live.

Barbara Coffin was at the center of that fight -- a courageous woman battling ovarian cancer, she fought for the right to die on her terms.

Tuesday, she did just that.

Coffin was happiest with her family spread out around their favorite table -- being with each other, loving each other, and living every precious moment.

"Right now everything hurts," Coffin said on Sunday. "It hurts to move, it hurts to get up and down, hurts to take a breath. I have no energy."

Tumors ravaged Barbara's body for 12 long years. Wracked with pain, Coffin made the decision two weeks ago to start planning her death -- to die, she says, with dignity.

"I love my family," she said. "I don't want people to remember me whining and crying not being able to function. Lying around moaning, I don't want that kind of memory. I want people to remember me happy and alive."

Back in 2009 when the law was enacted, Coffin was there standing proud. She was the first private citizen in the state to go public with her decision and to sign the Death with Dignity bill.

Her actions weren't without controversy. Protestors decried the immorality of such a law. Coffin understood but respectfully disagreed.

"I think everybody has the right to an opinion, but we as humans have a right to do with what we want with our bodies," Coffin said.

Sunday, Coffin said she was ready to die.

"It's hard to look at me on the outside and understand how bad I am on the inside," she said. "So it might be hard to understand how ready I am."

So Coffin gathered her closest friends around the family's dinner table to say goodbye. There were tears and laughter, long hugs and loving kisses.

Coffin was very candid with all; unafraid to talk about the lethal concoction she would take.

"It's a powder -- it's pentobarbital, a little bit of powder you mix with water," she said.

Prescribed by a doctor to be self-induced, Coffin calmly told us Monday that surrounded by family, she would drink the liquid, lie on her bed in her daughter's arms and lose consciousness within 5 minutes. Her body, she explained, would shut down for good within a few hours.

It's difficult, her daughter Lisa admits, but exactly what she wants to do for a mother who has given her so much.

"Just watching her, how strong she is, how kind she is, how loving… it's been beautiful," said Lisa Seminoff. "I feel really blessed. It's been 12 bonus years."

They were bonus years of appreciating each other. Coffin says she is most proud of being a mother, raising a daughter, a stepson Josh, a devoted nephew Colby, who is now stamped with a bumblebee tattoo for "Aunt B" -- the family humor always present.

"Everything has a good and bad side," Coffin said. "And it's everybody's choice which side they want to take. You can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. I choose to be happy."

Tuesday just after 1 p.m., Coffin said goodbye to her family and this world for the last time. At 1:17 p.m. she took her medication and was unconscious three minutes later, then taking her last breath at 1:44. It was her way, on her terms.

Before she went, she said she had one last message for everyone:

"Be kind to people you don't know; do some random acts of kindness and the world will be a better place."

Barbara Coffin was 66-years-old and adored by many.

The State Department of Health says 119 people took their own lives last year under the Death with Dignity Act. That's the highest annual total since the law took effect.