Doctors say No to Washington state assisted suicide expansion bill HB 1141.

By Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., MD,

When the citizens of Washington state voted in 2008 in favor of Initiative 1000, Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, they did it with the understanding that there were “safeguards” in the new law. 

HB 1141 seeks to remove some of those safeguards. 

1) It removes the safeguard that only medical physicians can be both the attending and consulting physicians. It expands qualifications to those with lesser medical expertise. That was not the intent of the original I-1000 initiative. 

2) Instead of evaluation by mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychologists, it expands the law to include mental evaluation by others with lesser credentials. That was not the intent of I-1000 

3) It removes the 15-day and the 72-hour waiting periods. I-1000 and the current law allowed for this time period for the person to really understand and reflect on the decision to end their life by lethal drugs. This bill will remove that protection promised in I-1000. If passed this bill would permit a person to receive lethal drugs and end their life on the same day that they have made a decision to use the law! That was not the intent of I-1000. 

4) It reduces the security of delivery of the lethal drugs by permitting delivery by expanding the type of delivery. This is dangerous. 

If these changes, which remove some safeguards in the law, had been in the original initiative petition, I doubt that the voters of Washington state would have approved. They would not have voted to legalize assisted suicide in Washington state in 2008. 

Eliminating safeguards will eliminate vulnerable people! 

The following tells of my patient, Jeanette Hall, who requested lethal drugs in 2000, and who is grateful to still be alive 20 years later.

I urge Washington state legislators to not remove “safeguards” from the Washington “Death with Dignity Act”.

Editor’s note. Dr. Stevens is Professor Emeritus & former Chair Department of Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University and President, Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, pccef.org.

It appeared on the webpage of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and is reposted with permission.