WA assisted suicide law takes effect, with mixed participation

Washington state's physician-assisted suicide law goes into effect today, with providers taking a decidedly mixed stance as to how and when they'll participate in the process of helping terminal patients die.

The Washington measure, which is modeled on Oregon's assisted-suicide law, sets a long list of requirements patients must meet before receiving assistance in death. The law requires patients to be diagnosed as having less than six months to live, to be of sound mind, to make a request both verbally and in writing, and to have that request approved by two different doctors.

Moreover, once the patient gets the approvals, they must wait 15 days and make the request again. Once all of these hurdles have been jumped, a doctor can prescribe a lethal dose of medication, but cannot personally administer it.

The law allows hospitals and doctors to refuse to participate in the program, and some have said that they'll avail themselves of this option. While about one-third of hospitals have said they will take part, another third have chosen not to do so, according to the Seattle Times. The remaining third are taking a middle road, with some, for example, refusing to dispense lethal prescriptions, but referring patients to providers who will.

To learn more about the new law:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece

Related Articles:
Montana becomes third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide
Physician-assisted suicide legalized in WA
CA considers physician-assisted suicide

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