Assisted suicide law takes effect, opinions clash - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Assisted suicide law takes effect, opinions clash

SPOKANE, Wash. - The recent passage of the Washington State Initiative 1000, the "Death with Dignity Act," has required hospitals and healthcare providers to make decisions about whether they will participate under the Act. The Act is clear that no provider, including Deaconess, is required to assist a qualified patient in ending his or her own life and requires hospitals that do not allow participation to provide public notice. 

"After thoughtful conversations with our medical staff, board of trustees and patients, Deaconess Medical Center has chosen to not participate in the ‘Washington State Death with Dignity Act,'" said Shelley Peterson, Deaconess' Chief Nursing Officer.  "However, we do believe that the passage of this act by Washington voters is a call to improve end of life care.  We also believe that whether or not to participate in Death with Dignity is a decision for providers and their patients. Therefore, we will not interfere with decisions made in private clinics on the Deaconess campus."

Deaconess says it will continue to provide compassionate, high quality care to all patients.  Any patient wishing to receive life-ending medication while a patient at the hospital will be assisted in transfer to another facility of the patient's choice, assuring continuity of care.

"All providers at Deaconess will continue to respond to a patient's questions about life-ending medication with compassion and without judgment.  Deaconess believes our providers have an obligation to openly discuss the patient's concerns, unmet needs, and feelings about dying and end-of-life care.  Providers will continue to seek to learn the meaning behind the patient's questions and help the patient understand the range of available options, including but not limited to comfort care, hospice care and pain management.  Ultimately, Deaconess' goal is to help patients make informed decisions about end-of-life care," said Peterson.

Valley Hospital and Medical center also chose not to participate in the act.

Kirkland woman wishes to receive life-ending drugs

A terminally ill patient told a news conference that she will consult with her doctor about choices to end her life under Washington's new assisted suicide law.

Barbara McKay of Kirkland has late-state ovarian cancer. The 60-year-old signed "a letter to her doctor" in Seattle Thursday, indicating her wish to receive life-ending drugs if she later chooses.

The law, which took effect Thursday, allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication to patients who qualify.

Meanwhile, several dozen people protested the law at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Opponents say terminally ill patients need compassion and assistance, not life-ending drugs.

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