These are the heartbreaking photographs from a terminally ill cancer patient’s suicide party where he married his life partner, bid farewell to friends and listened to music and poetry before taking his own life with a lethal injection under to Washington’s death with dignity law.
Robert Fuller, 75, died on May 10 at his senior living apartment in Seattle. He took his own life with a lethal injection of sleeping pills mixed with Kahlua after celebrating with friends.
Earlier in the day, he married is partner, Reese Baxter-Fuller and traded stories with old friends.
Fuller had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer months earlier. Instead of spending his final days having chemotherapy, he decided to take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide law.
Friends and family place their hands on Robert Fuller on May 10 after he plunged a lethal combination of sleeping tablets and alcohol into his feeding tube to take his own life. His husband, Reese, is shown weeping into a towel, top left
Reese Baxter hugs his husband, Robert Fuller, as he loses consciousness on May 10 after taking his own life
Moments before his death, Fuller comforted a friend who cried as he got into bed before taking his life
On May 10, his friends and family gathered at his home to spend the day with him.
In the afternoon, he fed a lethal cocktail of pills and alcohol into his gastric feeding tube to send him to sleep.
To get it, he had made two oral requests to doctors, received written permission from two, and had to source a pharmacy willing and able to give him the pills which cost around $400 without insurance.
Under the law, he had to give himself the lethal cocktail. Washington is one of the nine states where there are death with dignity laws to allow people to take their own lives.
By the time he died, Fuller had lived with AIDS for decades and had worked as a nurse and sponsored recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.
When he learned how aggressive his cancer was and how bleak his prognosis was, he decided not to pursue treatment because, he said, he had watched others spend their final days in agony and then die painful deaths as a result.
Reese and Robert got married in their home that morning surrounded by friends and family
Fuller, who had lived with AIDS for decades but ultimately died of cancer, invited friends to his home to bid him farewell. They listened to music and poetry before he told them he was ready to go to bed and take his own life
Days before the party, Fuller went to church to receive a blessing and prayer
Fuller is shown with the cocktail of drugs that would end his life on May 3, a week before he died. He had to go through a lengthy process to get them, getting two doctors’ permission and waiting weeks for it
By law, Fuller had to give himself the combination of drugs. He injected it into his feeding tube with a syringe
The combination of sleeping medication and Kahlua that would end Fuller’s life is shown
Among those who attended his farewell party were some of the drug addicts and alcoholics he had sponsored throughout his life.
He invited local reporters and photographers too to document the occasion.
He told them that he had been ready to die for ‘years’.
He had watched in the 1980s as his friends’ lives were claimed by AIDS. He survived it long enough for a life-saving cocktail of drugs to become available.
After several hours of mingling and exchanging stories with friends, on May 10, he announced he was ready to die by banging his walking stick on the ceiling.
‘I’m so ready to go. I’m tired,’ he said.
He then invited any friends who wanted to join him into his bedroom.
His new husband held his hand, a violinist played Amazing Grace and Ave Maria, and others piled into the room.
He had asked his partner to give him the ‘signal’ that he could ‘leave’ once the drugs had started taking hold.
Some of the others in the room placed their hands on his body as he took his final breaths.
Before he drifted off, he told the room: ‘I’m still here.’ He then stopped breathing.
ASSISTED SUICIDE IN THE US
There are only nine states with have assisted suicide laws in the US;
District of Columbia
To get it, patients must have been told they only have six months left to live. They do not qualify if they have dementia and the process to be granted permission to take their own lives is lengthy.
It starts with an oral request to a doctor that they want to end their lives with help.
They must make a second formal oral request 14 days later then submit a written request.
Then, after another waiting period, a doctor may issue the prescription. The patient must then find a pharmacy that is not only willing to give them the cocktail (pharmacists are not required to by law if they disagree with the process) but also one that is able and equipped to put it together.
The actual drug is most commonly a sleeping medication that is prescribed in a high dosage.
Secobarbital, which is branded under the name Seconal, is the most common but it is expensive, at around $1,000 without insurance. Doctors and pharmacists have come up with an alternative combination of drugs which costs less – $400.
The most common way to take the drugs is to crush them and mix them with liquid. The patient then must finish them all in two minutes and the taste, some have said before they die, is extremely bitter.
New Jersey was the most recent state to pass the law earlier this month.