Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Washington & Oregon Laws...

As proud Canadians, let us look over to the United States. In 1994, voters in Oregon legalized euthanasia under limited conditions. Under the Death With Dignity law, a person who sought physician-assisted suicide would have to meet certain criteria:
• The person must be terminally ill.
• The person must have six months or less to live.
• The person must make two oral requests for assistance in dying.
• The person must make one written request for assistance in dying.
• The person must convince two physicians that he or she is sincere and not acting on a whim, and that the decision is voluntary.
• The person must not have been influenced by depression.
• The person must be informed of "the feasible alternatives," including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
• The person must wait for 15 days.

Under the proposed law, a person who met all requirements could receive a prescription of a barbiturate that would be sufficient to cause death. Physicians would be prohibited from inducing death by injection or carbon monoxide. (

Oregon was one of the first in the world to promote death with dignity, and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to permit some terminally ill patients to determine the time of their own death. In 1997, there was a ballot referred by the state legislator that sought to repeal the Death with Dignity act, but it was rejected by 60% of voters.

Initiative 1000 (I-1000) was an adopted ballot measure dealing with aid in dying that was passed in the US state of Washington in the November 4, 2008 general election. The effort was started by former Governor Booth Gardner.
The measure was approved in the November 4, 2008 general election. 57.84% votes were cast in favor, 42.16% votes were against. (Washington Secretary of State – statistics website)

"This measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents medically predicted to die within six months to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. The measure requires two oral and one written request, two physicians to diagnose the patient and determine the patient is competent, a waiting period, and physician verification of an informed patient decision. Physicians, patients and others acting in good faith compliance would have criminal and civil immunity."
Provisions in the law include:
• The patient must be an adult (18 or over) resident of the state of Washington
• The patient must be mentally competent, verified by two physicians (or referred to a mental health evaluation)
• The patient must be terminally ill with less than 6 months to live, verified by two physicians.
• The patient must make voluntary requests, without coercion, verified by two physicians
• The patient must be informed of all other options including palliative and hospice care
• There is a 15 day waiting period between the first oral request and a written request
• There is a 48 hour waiting period between the written request and the writing of the prescription
• The written request must be signed by two independent witnesses, at least one of whom is not related to the patient or employed by the health care facility
• The patient is encouraged to discuss with family (not required because of confidentiality laws)
• The patient may change their mind at any time and rescind the request
("Initiative Measure 1000 "The Washington Death with Dignity Act"". Secretary of State of Washington (2008-01-24).)

This past November, this law went into affect. The people that were against it included the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide and other ‘Pro-Life’ groups. However, there were many groups that encouraged the law, most of which stemmed from different long-term illness support groups, as well as the Washington Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. We’re so curious to see, which country or state will be next…

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