Terminally Ill Former Gov. Pushes Assisted Suicide in Washington

A popular former governor battling Parkinson's disease is leading a campaign to pass an assisted-suicide law in Washington state, saying he wants the option for himself when the end is near.

"When I go, I want to decide," said Booth Gardner, who has had the disease for more than 14 years. "That's why I plan to work on getting `assisted death' in this state."

The 69-year-old Gardner predicted the proposed ballot measure would pass.

Neighboring Oregon is the only state to legalize assisted suicide. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the federal government cannot interfere by punishing doctors who prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill people.

Gardner, a millionaire heir to the Weyerhaeuser paper-products fortune who led the state from 1985 to 1993, announced his plans for the measure Monday. Gardner said he has not decided the measure's scope.

If his proposal follows the outline of a 1991 voter-rejected measure, it would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs, and permit them to administer lethal injections if the patients could not take the drugs without help.

Gardner plans to promote the measure in 2008, saying a presidential and gubernatorial election year will draw the largest possible turnout.