Last week, Washington joined Oregon in passing a state initiative, The Washington State Death with Dignity Act, that permits doctors to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives by prescribing lethal doses of medication. The bill contains safeguards, modeled after Oregon's 11-year-old assisted suicide law, designed to protect both physicians and their patients.
The campaign was the costliest for a Washington state initiative, with more than $6.5 million raised from individuals and organizations inside and outside Washington state on both sides. The bill will go into effect in March, 2008, and was passed by a margin of 59 to 41 percent.
As a New York Times article summarizes: Patients requesting this assistance must be mentally competent, residents of the state, have six months or less to live according to two physicians, observe a waiting period of 15 days after their initial request and then repeat that request -- both orally and in writing. They must be capable of administering the lethal medication themselves and agree to counseling if their physicians request it. In addition, these patients also must be informed by their health care providers of other feasible alternatives.