Washington State Joins Oregon in Physician-Assisted Suicide
As of today, Washington State like Oregon will have legal physician-assisted suicide.
Washington State passed Initiative 1000 — the Death with Dignity Act — in November. The law allows physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients determined to have six months or less to live. It also allows hospitals and doctors the right to refuse to participate.
The Seattle Times reports that as many as a third of the hospitals are choosing that option to not participate. Another third have opted in. The remaining third are somewhere in-between; allowing their clinics to participate while the hospital does not.
Compassion and Choices of Washington is the right-to-die organization behind much of Initiative 1000. Their president, Terry Barnett, is quoted as saying that patients and families who wish to use the law should be able to find a doctor willing to work with them.
As in Oregon, there are strict rules that must be followed. These include:
> The patient must be diagnosed as having less than six months to live.
> The patient must be of sound mind.
> The patient must make a request verbally and in writing.
> The patient’s request must be approved by two different doctors.
> The patient must then wait 15 days and make the request again.
> The doctor can prescribe the lethal dose, but cannot administer it.
Montana became the third state to allow physician-assisted death when a district-court judge ruled this past December that the state's constitutional guarantees of privacy and dignity mean terminally ill patients have a right to "die with dignity." The state is appealing that decision.
If Washington State's experience is like Oregon’s, there will not be a large number of dying people asking for lethal prescriptions. As of last fall, in the 11 years the Oregon law had been in effect, roughly 340 people had received prescriptions to hasten their death.
Compassion and Choices of Washington