OLYMPIA, WASHING – A new bill the Washington legislature is trying to make major changes to the existing Suicide Assistance Act, known as the Death through Dignity Act.
Currently, people who have less than six months left can end their lives earlier. This has been happening since 2009. Proponents of the bill believe it will save people from suffering.
During public testimony in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, supporter Karen Beisner says her mother’s condition in December 2021 became incurable with no hope of recovery.
“She was not afraid of death, but she was afraid of dying, and she did not want the treatment to prolong her life,” Beisner said.
She says for some time they had not heard of the possibility of suicide, and until then her mother was not smart enough to swallow the medication on her own. The current law says that a deadly medicine a patient must give himself.
“Looking at how she’s been suffering for so long, no one will have to go through it when they know there’s no way to be cured,” she said.
Under current law, people who want to commit suicide must receive a final diagnosis from two doctors. Replacing the bill would allow registered nurses and some physician assistants to also make these diagnoses.
The law also says that people must wait 15 days between the first and second request for a lethal medication. The new bill will reduce that time to 72 hours.
“Patients do not have time to reconsider giving full and informed consent or perhaps change their minds to consult fully with loved ones,” said Conrad Reynoldson, a Washington-based civil and disability lawyer.
“Seventy-two hours does not give enough time for proper discussion and intervention to vulnerable patients who make hasty decisions due to fear, depression, embarrassment, or other reversible or transient and psychological problems,” said Sharon Quick, a concerned citizen.
Dr. Jessica Caan, a doctor from Vancouver, testified that those who were delayed in the waiting period continue to suffer.
Also in this account the medicine can be sent to someone by mail.
In 2020, Washington Department of Health says 340 people received the medication and 252 took it. Ninety percent of the people were enrolled in the hospice.
The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. He is currently on the committee before going to the Senate to vote.
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