Washington Doctors, Hospitals Refuse to Take Part in New Assisted Suicide Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Doctors, Hospitals Refuse to Take Part in New Assisted Suicide Law

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 7
, 2008

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Voters in Washington may have made their state the second in the nation to legalize assisted suicide but that doesn’t mean patients who want their physician’s help in killing themselves will be able to get it. Doctors and hospitals are already speaking up saying they will refuse assisted suicide requests.

Though voters approved I-1000 on Tuesday, the Washington State Medical Association says doctors have no obligation to participate in killing patients.

Meanwhile, Providence Health and Services, the largest medical system in eastern Washington, states it will prohibit doctors from killing patients at its medical centers, nursing homes and other facilities.

"Providence will not support physician-assisted suicide within its ministries," it said in a statement published in the Spokesman Review newspaper.

"This position is grounded in our basic values of respect for the sacredness of life, compassionate care of dying and vulnerable persons, and respect for the integrity of medical, nursing and allied health professions. We do not believe health care providers should ever be put in a position of aiding a patient in taking his or her own life," the statement continued.

Spokeswoman Karina Jennings said Providence has no plans to pursue legal action to overturn the assisted suicide law and will take advantage of the exemption in the law.

Hospice of Spokane will also not participate in the law and says its mission is to provide care and support for patients, not kill them.

Wesley J. Smith, a top bioethics watchdog based in California, applauded the decisions not to engage in assisted suicides.

"One of the most important services that medical professionals can offer to the people they serve, I think, is to declare their offices and facilities to be ‘assisted suicide free zones,’" he said. "Indeed, I hope that medical organizations create plaques and certificates to those doctors and health care facilities can mount on office walls."

He called opting out of doing assisted suicides "important" and said, "Medical professionals must resist turning killing (which means to end life) into a medical treatment. None can be forced (yet) to participate."

"Such modeling may save lives of people who, thanks to the continued proliferation of non-participating medical professionals, will never ask for assisted suicide. And it will give courage to others to resist the culture of death that this way comes," he added.

There is time for physicians and hospitals to put their internal policies in place as the assisted suicide law won’t go into effect until July 2009 after state officials write the ballot measure into law.

Washington voters approved I-1000 after proponents spent $7 million — mostly coming from out of state — against the paltry funds opponents had to educate voters against it.

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