Washington State to Become Second to Legalize Assisted Suicide on Thursday

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington State to Become Second to Legalize Assisted Suicide on Thursday

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 3
, 2009

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Washington state becomes the second to legalize assisted suicide when the I-1000 ballot initiative voters approved in November becomes law on Thursday. The law allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to request a lethal prescription from their physician.

Pro-life advocates opposed the law because they don’t want to see doctors become killers and they note that alternatives are available to death as a solution.

Opponents of the assisted suicide law have been working overtime to urge doctors and medical centers to resist becoming involved in assisted suicide and some has gone as far as signing a pledge for an assisted suicide free zone.

For example, Stu Farber, director of the palliative care consult service at the University of Washington Medical Center, says he voted against the measure and has no plans to help his patients kill themselves.

Tom Preston, with the pro-euthanasia Compassion & Choices, noted this effort in comments to The Olympian newspaper.

"There are a lot of doctors, who in principle, would approve or don’t mind this, but for a lot of social or professional reasons, they don’t want to be involved," he said.

However, Preston thinks there "will be a cultural shift" where more medical professionals can stomach assisted suicide the longer the law remains on the books.

Farber is one of those who says he could change his mind, he tells the newspaper.

"I am not here to tell people how they should either live their life or the end of their life," Farber said. "There’s possibly a story out there, in the future, that’s so compelling, that maybe I would write a prescription."

The pro-euthanasia group says it is compiling a directory of physicians and medical centers that are not opting out of participating in the law and will write prescriptions for lethal cocktails to kill patients.

It will include the University of Washington health system and Group Health Cooperative, which chose not to opt out. UW decided not to opt out because it noted individual doctors can do so.

Washington is the second state to legalize assisted suicide after Oregon, where voters approved assisted suicide on two occasions during the 1990s. Montana could become the third state to allow the grisly practice if the state Supreme Court upholds a lower court judge’s decision to overturn its ban.

Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, says he is concerned that the Washington law will motivate other states to approve killing patients as well.

"The proponents of this are delighted," Stevens told Christianity Today. "The crack in the dam has broadened, and the chance for the dam to burst open and go to the rest of the country is very good."

Measures similar to Oregon’s law have been defeated in California, Hawaii, Michigan, and Vermont since 1997.

About 340 people in Oregon have killed themselves under the law there, and there are been numerous reports of abuses.

Prescriptions were given to some patients who did not receive proper psychological evaluations and some patients who were given the lethal drugs were still alive well after the six months allowed under the law.

In another case, a woman on state-funded Medicaid who wanted to purchase drugs to help improve her medical condition was denied and told that the state would pay for her to kill herself instead.

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