Public radio talk show host Diane Rehm’s entry into the right to die debate comes less than a year after her husband chose to not eat or drink when his Maryland doctor refused to help him end his life. The battle she’s entering has been a long one. Here below, some key moments:
1980: The Hemlock Society. After helping his wife to die, Derek Humphry starts the organization, becoming a key figure in launching the modern right-to-die debate in America.
1990: Jack Kevorkian. Known as Dr. Death, he helps his first patient — a woman with Alzheimer’s disease — use his suicide machine to end her life.
1990: The Supreme Court. In Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the court essentially gave patients the right to refuse medical treatment.
1991. “Final Exit.” Humphry publishes a book detailing how to plan a suicide. It becomes a national best-seller.
1992: Proposition 161 defeat. The California Death With Dignity Act fails.
1994: Oregon. The state becomes the first in the country to pass a doctor-assisted suicide law.
1994 to 1997: Kevorkian trials. Kevorkian stood trial four times in the deaths of six patients. He was acquitted three times. The fourth ended in a mistrial.
1999: Kevorkian conviction. Kevorkian is convicted of second-degree murder for administering a lethal injection to a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
2002: Oregon anniversary. Five years after Oregon passes its law, the number of those making use of it hits nearly 130.
2008: Legalization in Washington: The state follows Oregon, passing its own doctor-assisted suicide law.
2012: Referendum defeat. Voters in Massachusetts defeat right to die legislation strongly opposed by the Catholic church, which mounted a campaign against it.
2013: Legalization in Vermont. The state follows Oregon and Washington, becoming the third to legalize doctor-assisted death.
2014: Brittany Maynard. A 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer moves to Oregon to end her life, garnering headlines around the world.