Florida Woman Allowed To Die

A woman paralyzed from the neck down by a bullet was taken off life support at her request and died Wednesday, clearing the way for prosecutors to bring murder charges against the person who allegedly shot her -- her mother.

Georgette Smith, 42, had asked a judge to force doctors at Lucerne Medical Center to disconnect her ventilator, saying she couldn't bear to live in such a condition.

The judge ruled in her favor Tuesday and said she could have life support removed at 5 p.m. Wednesday. A hospital spokeswoman would not say what time the ventilator was disconnected, but said Smith was sedated beforehand and died at 5:46 p.m.

For two months in her hospital bed, her spine severed by a single bullet, Smith couldn't walk, breath or eat on her own, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts. But late Wednesday she was granted the one choice she could make. "And this is my choice," she said, "to die with dignity."

It was a choice Smith's daughter told the court her mother was sure of. "She has prepared herself, because she knows that she's lived a good life, and she doesn't want to finish her life in this situation," Candace Smith said at a hearing.

Today, Candace Smith lost her mother, but now it's her grandmother's life that's in jeopardy.

Police say 68-year-old Shirley Egan shot her daughter last March after overhearing her discussing plans to put her in a nursing home. Prosecutors say there's a good chance they'll charge the frail, 4-foot-11, 85-pound woman with first-degree murder.

Shortly before doctors removed Smith from the ventilator, relatives said their good-byes and prosecutors took Smith's testimony one more time about the shooting last March. It is testimony they will now likely use against her mother at trial.

Legal analyst and Georgetown Law Professor Patricia King says prosecutors must prove it was one woman's rage and not another's choice that make this a murder case.

"The issue here is whether the intervening act of the daughter to decide to die should relieve her mother of responsibility for her death," said King.

Whether it was murder or a victim's choice to end her life on her own terms, Diane Coleman, an activist for the disabled, says Georgette Smith's choice was wrong.

"Another person with a disability's life has been lost. And in a lot of ways it's because this society life with severe disability as worse than death," said Coleman.

Legally allowing Georgette Smith to turn off her ventilator was the easier choice - it's the law in Florida. The complicated issue now is whether her mother should face the death penalty because of it.

Just before her death Smith made one last request: She asked to be an organ donor.