Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Physician Assisted Suicide (Death) Now Legal in Washington

After everyone wakes up from their political hangover all the other 'minor' political races will start getting sorted out. Senate seats, and House of Rep rearrangements and the local initiatives. Some got a lot of press like Colorado's personhood amendment and California's same sex marriage ban.

But I think a lot of people* across the US may be scratching their heads to wake up to another state** that has voted for the option of medically hastened death for terminally ill patients. Washington residents voted by a large margin (58 pro-42% opposed) to have a law endorsing physicians to prescribe medications with the intent of hastening a competent patient's death at their voluntary request. Much of the law is set up to look similar to Oregon's Death With Dignity Act that is now in it's 10th year since the Supreme Court appeals. I doubt Washington's will be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court again, but I would expect some legal opposition to hold up enactment of the law.

How this will affect hospice and palliative care programs in the area will be interesting to follow. Will they grow given the increased dialogue about end of life choices? Will some hospices assist with this practice and others not participate? Would this be an ethical marketing split?

If this gains traction in other states I could foresee medically hastened death may split the palliative medicine community. I wish end-of-life issues were talked about more openly in medicine and in public so that people could make informed opinions rather than strictly on hyperbole or emotional appeals of the moment. A boy can dream.

If any Pallimed readers from Oregon can share your on the ground experience in Oregon with how hospices dealt with this sensitive subject please feel free to add some info in the comments.

Would readers be interested in having occasional anonynmous polls here about topics such as this to generate further discussion? It is a feature we could implement fairly easily but we hav enot wanted it to be some sideshow gimmick.

*But not Pallimed readers, cause I harped on this so much in the last two weeks.
** Many people are still surprised to hear medically hastened death is legal in Oregon

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