Washington

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2020 Bills
HB 2419 has been introduced.
It would establish a study by the University of Washington.  That study would identify “barriers” to achieving full access to the Washington “Death with Dignity Act.”
Text of HB 2419

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issues Veto Message on bill (HB 2419).
(April 3, 2020)

HB 2326 has been introduced.
It would require that every hospital must submit its policy regarding end-of-life and the Death with Dignity Act to the Department of Health and must provide the public with specific information about which end-of-life services are and are not generally available at each hospital.
Text of HB 2326

Washington State Has Issued Its Latest Official Death with Dignity Act Report for 2018 data.  (July 2019)
According to the Report:
Doctor-prescribed suicide deaths increased by 25% in the last  year. (pg. 8)
Fewer than 10% of patients were referred for psychiatric/psychological evaluation. (pg. 12)
In some cases, the duration of the doctor-patient relationship was under one week. (pg. 17)

“Washington Will Likely Be First State to Allow ‘Human Composting’ as a Burial Method”
(Source: Smithsonian.com– April 23, 2019)
[Note:  SB 5001 passed in Washington State on April 19, 2019 and was awaiting the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee.  The title of a May 1 article in Crosscut about it said it well:  “From dust to dirt: Human composting is coming to WA”]

Washington State official report for 2017 data.
(March 2018)

Washington State issues 8th official report for 2016 data on doctor-prescribed suicide.
(August 2017)

Eighth Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (8/17)

  • Top reasons reported for requesting doctor-prescribed suicide:
    Losing autonomy, less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable, loss of dignity, and burden on family, friends or caregivers.  More than 50% of patients cited concern about being a burden on others. (p. 8)
    [Note:  Inadequate pain control or fear about it was not among the top reasons]
  • 46% of patients who received the lethal prescription had only Medicare or Medicaid coverage. (p. 6)
  • Only 5% of patients receiving the prescription were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation. (p. 9)
  • The prescriptions were for an overdose of Seconal for 32% of patients,  Pentobarbital for 1%, a combination of other drugs for 44%.   Other drugs were prescribed for the remaining patients. (p. 9)
  • The duration of the physician-patient relationship ranged from less than 1 week to 31 years. (p. 9)
  • The report lists “unknown” for many items.  For example, complications were unknown for 11%, the length of time between ingestion and death was unknown for 17%. (p. 10)
  • The underlying illnesses for 2% of patients was not listed even though such information is to be included in the reports from physicians. (p. 6)

Scroll down for official reports and for latest news articles.

Background

In 1991, by a vote of 54 to 46 percent, Washington State voters defeated Initiative 119, a measure that would have permitted doctors to provide euthanasia by lethal injection or assisted suicide by a prescription for an intentional lethal overdose of drugs.

After that, three attempts were made in the Washington State legislature to transform assisted suicide, which was a crime in Washington, into a “medical treatment.”  All three attempts failed.

In 2008, assisted-suicide proponents targeted the state for a massive effort to make Washington only the second state to approve assisted suicide.  With a voter initiative (I-1000)on the 2008 ballot, they succeeded, by a vote of 57.91 to 42.09 percent, in making it legal for doctors to help their patients commit suicide. The Washington initiative, patterned on Oregon’s assisted-suicide law, was spearheaded by Compassion and Choices (the former Hemlock Society).

The Washington law (RCW 70.245) went into effect in March 2009.

Washington’s Law Requires Physicians to Falsify Death Certificates. The law does not allow deaths resulting from doctor-prescribed suicide to be listed as assisted suicide.

Physicians are required to list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death RCW 70.245.040 (2).

The Instructions for Physicians and other Medical Certifiers are explicit:
“If you know that the decedent used the Death with Dignity Act, you must comply with the strict requirements of the law when completing the death record:

  1. The underlying terminal disease must be listed as the cause of death.
  2. The manner of death must be marked as ‘Natural.’
  3. The cause of death section may not contain any language the indicates that the Death with Dignity Act was used.”

Words that are not permitted on the death certificate include: suicide, assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, Secobarbital, Seconal, Pentobarbital or Nembutal.

The instructions warn: “The Washington State Registrar will reject any death certificate that does not properly adhere to the requirements of the Death with Dignity Act.” Thus, unless the death certificate falsifies the real cause of death, it will not be accepted and the physician will be required to submit a new death certificate that hides the facts.

In 2011, Senate Bill 5378 was introduced.  It would have required death certificates to contain accurate information.  The bill did not pass.

……….

Eighth Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (8/17)

  • Top reasons reported for requesting doctor-prescribed suicide:
    Losing autonomy, less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable, loss of dignity, and burden on family, friends or caregivers.  More than 50% of patients cited concern about being a burden on others. (p. 8)
    [Note:  Inadequate pain control or fear about it was not among the top reasons]
  • 46% of patients who received the lethal prescription had only Medicare or Medicaid coverage. (p. 6)
  • Only 5% of patients receiving the prescription were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation. (p. 9)
  • The prescriptions were for an overdose of Seconal for 32% of patients,  Pentobarbital for 1%, a combination of other drugs for 44%.   Other drugs were prescribed for the remaining patients. (p. 9)
  • The duration of the physician-patient relationship ranged from less than 1 week to 31 years. (p. 9)
  • The report lists “unknown” for many items.  For example, complications were unknown for 11%, the length of time between ingestion and death was unknown for 17%. (p. 10)
  • The underlying illnesses for 2% of patients was not listed even though such information is to be included in the reports from physicians. (p. 6)

Seventh Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (8/16)

  • Top reasons reported for requesting doctor-prescribed suicide:
    Losing autonomy, less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable, loss of dignity, and burden on family, friends or caregivers. (p. 7)
  • 71% of patients who received the lethal prescription had only Medicare or Medicaid coverage. (p. 5)
  • Only 4% of patients receiving the prescription were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation. (p. 8)
  • The prescriptions were for an overdose of Seconal for 52% of patients,  Pentobarbital for 1% and Phenobarbital for 46% of patients. (p. 8)
  • The duration of the physician-patient relationship ranged from less than 1 week to 2 years. (p. 8)
  • Patients who died of doctor-prescribed suicide ranged in age from 20 to 97 years old (p. 1).

Sixth Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (8/6/15)

  • Top reasons reported for requesting doctor-prescribed suicide:
    Losing autonomy, less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable, loss of dignity, and burden on family, friends or caregivers. (p. 7)
  • 70% of patients who received the lethal prescription had only Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage. (p. 5)
  • Only 4% of patients receiving the prescription were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation. (p. 8)
  • The prescriptions were for an overdose of Seconal for 64% of patients and Pentobarbital for 36% of patients. (p. 8)
  • The length of the doctor-patient relationship was less than one week in one or more cases. (p. 8)

Fifth Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (6/4/14)

  • Top reasons reported for doctor-prescribed suicide:
    Concern about loss of autonomy, concern about loss of dignity, concern about loss of the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable. (p. 1)
  • More than half of deaths were of individuals who had only Medicare or Medicaid health insurance coverage. (p. 5)
  • Pentobarbital was the drug that caused 89% of doctor-prescribed suicide deaths. (p. 8)
    [Note: Pentobarbital has been the primary drug used for capital punishment]
  • The doctor who prescribed the drugs was present in only 2 of the 159 reported deaths. (p. 9)

Fourth Annual Report on Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (6/20/13)

  • The number of suicide prescriptions has increased each year since the law went into effect
  • 63% of patients who died reported concerns about being a burden
  • Only 3% of patients who received prescriptions for suicide were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation
  • In 4% of deaths, no information is available about whether complications occurred after taking the suicide prescription

……….

Articles

“When Assisted Suicide ‘Protections’ Become Barriers”
(National Review — January 29, 2020)
When pitching legislation, assisted-suicide advocates solemnly promise that they have written, oh so “protective guidelines” into the legislation to prevent abuse.
Then, once the law is safely in place, advocates grouse that the guidelines they touted are “obstacles” or “barriers”…

“The Soylent Green New Deal is three years away”
(Highland County Press, August 13, 2019)
In an effort to cut carbon emissions from burials and cremations, the state of Washington, led by staunch environmentalist Governor Jay Inslee, became the first U.S. State to legalize human composting.

“Docs in Northwest tweak aid-in-dying drugs to prevent prolonged deaths.”
(USA Today — February 16, 2017)
The first Seconal alternative turned out to be too harsh, burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain….In Oregon, even with fast-acting barbiturates, time to death has ranged from one minute to 104 hours.
More on “Drugs Prescribed for Doctor-Prescribed Suicide”
More on Oregon

“Suicide Groups Control Assisted Suicide in WA/OR”
(National Review — September 15, 2016)
In Washington, a suicide facilitating group boasts its volunteers “assisted 93% of all assisted suicides in the state.”

“Terminally-ill patients face shortage of right-to-die drug amid controversy over capital punishment”
(Real Change News — June 18, 2014)
Compounding pharmacies began using the same drug, pentobarbital, for executions and for aid-in-dying.  This is where the trouble fore aid-in-dying began.

“Assisted suicide is a soft sell in this affluent but aging Washington State community”
(National Post — November 26, 2013)
Dick Baker no longer practices family medicine, but he still makes house calls. The retired physician attends planned suicides….There is also a requirement that a patient must reside in Washington to obtain a lethal prescription. “I’ve heard there are ways around that,” said Dr. Baker, but he did not elaborate. “I’ve probably already said too much.”

“Hospice workers struggle on front lines of physician-assisted death laws”
(Medical Xpress — July 22, 2013)
A recent study of 33 hospice programs in Washington state found that laws that allow physician-assisted suicide in the Pacific Northwest have provisions to protect the rights of patients, doctors and even the state, but don’t consider the professionals most often on the front lines of this divisive issue — hospice workers who provide end-of-life care.

“Islanders question health center merger”
(Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber — April 17, 2013)
The merger between the Highline Medical Center and Franciscan Health System has drawn controversy.  Advocates for end-of-life choice say they’re concerned that Catholic health systems interfere with the Death with Dignity Act, which Washington voters passed in 2008.

“Leading cancer centre in Washington state sets up assisted suicide program”
(Bioedge — April 13, 2013)
The leading cancer centre in Washington state has published in the New England Journal of Medicine a blueprint of how to implement a dying-with-dignity program, now that assisted suicide has been leglised…[The article] followed 40 patients….One took more than a day to die, an outcome which distressed his family and the doctor.

“Bothell man gets 2 years for slaying terminally ill wife”
(Everett Herald — February 1, 2013)
Donald McNeely sat on the couch next to his sleeping wife.  For two hours he held a gun in his hand, contemplating what she’d asked of him….[Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas] Wynne found that the defendant doesn’t pose a significant risk to the community and that his intentions were thought to be humanitarian, not criminal.  Additionally, the victim to a significant degree was a willing participant in the incident, the judge concluded.

“Group Health Teams With Hospital System In Pacific Northwest”
(Kaiser Health News — August 1, 2012)
Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative and the 32-hospital Providence Health & Services, a Catholic hospital system, are merging.  Robb Miller, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Washington said he hopes Group Health will take steps to protect patient choice regarding end-of-life options in the new network.
Note:  Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society) promotes doctor-prescribed suicide as an end-of-life option.

“A Panel Decides Washington State’s Health Care Costs”
(New York Times – March 21, 2011)
Deryk Lamb who was crushed between two trucks in 1996 pleaded with a state health care board to continue paying for the spinal injections he receives to dull the pain from a workplace injury. “I don’t deserve to be sentenced by a committee to a life of agony,” he said.  The committee chair denies that its actions amount to rationing.

Washington State Releases First Annual Report on Assisted Suicide (3/4/10)

When Washington released its first annual report, one editorial favorably noted that the deaths saved money for families.    Another“celebrated” the deaths.  Certainly, it’s true. Dead family members don’t cost money.  But celebrating their deaths costs us all our humanity. (3/6/10)

Text of Washington Death with Dignity Act

Analysis of Initiative 1000, Washington’s assisted-suicide initiative.

Funding Watch: Assisted-suicide advocacy groups provide major funding for I 1000.

Audio – Rita Marker on I-1000 (The New Atlantis 10/22/08)

Washington Not Dead Yet blog

Articles
“Man’s letter to Cowlitz County sheriff on the day he died shows the burdens we carry to the bitter end”

( The Oregonian – – October 23, 2010 )
Prior to his doctor-prescribed death under Washington State’s assisted suicide law, William B. F. Price wrote a letter to the Cowlitz County sheriff. “I will die in accord with Washington’s Death with Dignity Act at 9 a.m. today,” he wrote. His letter focused on what he deemed to be a poor investigation of the damage done to his car in March.

“ObamaCare High School: Reading, Writing, and Suicide Assistance?”
( American Thinker – WA, USA- April 14, 2010 )
In Washington State, an 18-year-old high school senior could be “qualified” for assisted suicide at a school-based health clinic. Within two weeks, she could be referred to an assisted suicide advocacy group and provided with a prescription for a lethal drug overdose. She could take it. And die – without her parents even knowing she was ill. It would all be perfectly legal. More

“Support Group Speaker Promotes Assisted Suicide”
When the pulmonary rehab therapist suggested a support group, a Washington State couple didn’t expect a speaker from an assisted-suicide advocacy group who would promote assisted suicide.

“Dial 911 for Suicide Assistance?”
( American Thinker – WA, USA – September 28, 2009 )
If a suicidal cancer patient calls 911 in Washington State, will she be provided with all “end-of-life options,” including a referral to the assisted-suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices? More

“Terminal Uncertainty”
(Seattle Weekly – January 14, 2009)
In Oregon, of the 341 people who put themselves to death as of 2007, 17 did so between six months and two years after getting their prescription….It’s one thing o make a six-month prognosis that will allow patients access to hospice services and quite another to do so for the purpose of enabling patients to kill themselves. The consequences of being wrong are pretty different.

“Washington State Voters Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide” (NWV, 11/24/08)
“We’re tired of being the sprouts-chewing liberals out in Oregon…We need another state.”

“I-1000 could remove personal choice,” writes former Washington Governor John Spellman.
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oct. 21, 2008)

“An Open Letter to Baroness Warnock on Assisted Suicide” (American Thinker; Oct. 4, 2008)
When she said people with Alzheimer’s should be able to appoint someone to request euthanasia for them, Britain’s leading medical ethicist, Baroness Mary Warnock, caused a firestorm of controversy. A similar, but little known, proposal was made by those in the forefront of Oregon’s assisted-suicide law and the current Washington State initiative to legalize assisted suicide.

“Oregon’s Suicidal Approach to Health Care” (American Thinker; Sept. 14, 2008)
Oregon seems to have found a surefire way to lower health care costs:  Tell the patient you’ll pay for drugs that will end her life, but not those that would extend her life.”  Now, Oregon assisted-suicide activists are trying to bring the Oregon experience to Washington.

“Proposal is reckless, unnecessary” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/25/08)
In the past, Rheba De Tornyay, dean and professor emeritus of the University Washington School of Nursing, “robustly supported” assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Now she opposes Washington’s assisted-suicide initiative because “a profit-preoccupied medical establishment, combined with emotionally and financially stressed families, would press them to accept death, regardless of the heralded safeguards laws would contain.”

“Booth Gardner:  Tribute or fundraiser?” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/20/08)
A September “Dinner of Appreciation” for former Governor Booth Gardner, with tickets starting at $20,000, may be a thinly veiled fundraiser for Washington’s assisted-suicide initiative.

“Assisted suicide gets push from out of state”
Portland Oregon based Death with Dignity National Center’s annual report tells the tale of its behind the scenes manipulation of Washington State’s assisted-suicide initiative.
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/28/08)

“A matter of life and death for state’s voters” (Seattle PI, 5/27/08)
Kathryn Tucker, an advocate of the Oregon law described those in the assisted-suicide movement as people of “affluence” and “high education.”

“Oregon’s Trojan Horse”
“If other states refused to pass laws patterned on Oregon’s current, seemingly restrictive law, it was a sure bet that they’d be even less inclined to follow Oregon’s lead if it were to be expanded.”

“Suicide as a Medical Treatment”
Assisted-suicide campaign spokesperson admits it’s only intended to be the “first step.”

“I-1000 campaign seeks to sell voters on death” (Seattle P-I, 3/30/08)
“If you are campaigning for the ‘right’ of people to kill themselves, the first challenge is finding a nonlethal definition: Soft reassuring terms must be substituted for the off-putting phrase ‘assisted suicide.'”

“Gardner crusade is a selfish last act” (Seattle P-I, 1/11/08)
Why Booth Gardner’s “last campaign is harmful to the sick, the disabled, the vulnerable…and society.

“Former Gov. Gardner becomes assisted suicide’s advocate” (Herald, Everett, WA, 1/6/08)
Filing of the assisted-suicide measure is expected to take place on Wednesday, January 9.  Supporters set up a campaign committee last year and had raised $253,000 by Dec. 1.

“Death in the Family” by Daniel Bergner (The New York Times Magazine, 12/2/07)
“Booth Gardner, a former governor of Washington State who has Parkinson’s, is urgently lobbying for a doctor-assisted-suicide law.” “Gardner’s campaign is a compromise; he sees it as a first step.  If he can sway Washington to embrace a restrictive law, then other states will follow.  And gradually, he says, the nation’s resistance will subside, the culture will shift and laws with more latitude will be passed…”