History of the Washington Campaign

The Washington Death with Dignity Act went into effect on March 5, 2009. Year prior to that momentous day and for years after, Compassion & Choices has been working to ensure terminally ill eligible adults who wish to use this compassionate end can do so. 


Governor Jay Inslee signed ESSB 5179, the amended Death with Dignity Act, on April 6, 2023, which means more eligible terminally ill Washingtonians will be able to access their medical aid in dying. Key improvements of ESSB 5179 include:

  • Expanding the pool of qualified providers to support patients who would like to access medical aid in dying by authorizing Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician Assistants to serve as clinicians.

  • Reducing the waiting period from 15 days to 7 days, cutting the length of time a patient has to needlessly suffer in half; And

  • Requiring health systems to post their medical aid in dying policies, so patients will get honest and transparent information.

This amazing accomplishment came in partnership with our tireless advocates and supporters, End of Life Washington and our legislative champions, Representative Skyler Rude and Senator Jamie Pedersen.


ESHB 1141 once again failed to advance in the Washington State Legislature before a critical deadline. Despite the House previously passing the bill on January 12 with a bipartisan vote of 68-38, the bill did not pass out of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. Compassion & Choices will continue to work with our partners at End of Life Washington to ensure this bill will be considered again soon.


ESHB 1141 failed to make it to the Senate floor for a debate or vote despite the House previously passing the bill on February 25 with a bipartisan vote of 60-37.


In 2020, Compassion & Choices and End of Life Washington worked with lawmakers in the state to advance legislation that would improve the Washington Death with Dignity Act. Due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, both bills stalled in the legislature. Compassion & Choices is working with lawmakers in 2021 to advance these important bills. Read more about these two important bills.  

  • HB 2326 was introduced January 9, 2020 as an amendment to the existing law. If passed, it would require every hospital to submit its policy regarding medical aid in dying to the WA Department of Health. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, HB 2326 stalled in the legislature before its third reading.
  • HB 2419 was introduced January 14, 2020 requiring the study of barriers to the use of the Washington Death with Dignity Act. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the state’s budget, Governor Inslee vetoed HB 2419.


A medical aid in dying law is meaningless if people cannot access it. Our campaign in Washington educates health professionals about the law, encourages healthcare systems to adopt supportive policies that enable patients to access their rights under the law and promotes public understanding.


In October of 2015, Compassion & Choices of Washington changed its name to End of Life Washington. Our relationship changed from affiliate to partner, and we continue to work collaboratively. End of Life Choices Washington is the lead organization helping patients to navigate the law, and both organizations pursue efforts to improve existing laws in the state of Washington.


The Washington Death with Dignity Act, co-authored by Compassion & Choices former president (now President Emerita/Senior Adviser) Barbara Coombs Lee, went into effect on March 5. 2009.


Former Washington Governor Booth Gardner filed a ballot initiative to authorize medical aid in dying with the Secretary of State’s office in Washington on January 24, 2008. A month later the It’s My Decision Committee was renamed Yes on I-1000.  The coalition partners launched an aggressive signature-gathering effort and on July 2, Gov. Gardner delivered to the Secretary of State almost 100,000 signatures more than was needed to make it on the ballot. On August 13, 2008, the Secretary of State certified Initiative 1000. As a result, in November, the voters of Washington would be given an opportunity to authorize medical aid in dying, which they did! 

On November 4, 2008, 57% of Washington voters voted in favor of the Washington Death with Dignity Act, making it the second state to authorize medical aid in dying. The Washington Death with Dignity Act went into effect on March 5, 2009.   

Following passage of the law, Compassion & Choices and its affiliate in Washington launched programs to ensure that patients were able to access medical aid in dying.  Over the years, staff and volunteers have conducted hundreds of presentations for social workers, nurses, physicians, attorneys and the general public.


On August 23, 2007, the campaign officially launched, when the Coalition voted to establish the It’s My Decision Committee. Compassion & Choices and Compassion & Choices Washington each donated $200,000 in seed money to jump start the campaign as did the other coalition partners. The legislation in Washington was modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which Compassion & Choices president Barbara Coombs Lee co-authored.


In 2006, a coalition—individuals from the state of Washington led by Governor Booth Gardner, Compassion & Choices, and Compassion & Choices of Washington and Death with Dignity National Center, —first convened on February 24, 2006, to discuss a potential Washington Death with Dignity initiative. Polls showed support for Death with Dignity among state residents stood at 64%.


In 2005, because their missions were becoming more similar, Compassion in Dying Federation and End of Life Choices merged and became Compassion & Choices. The Washington chapter of End of Life Choices became Compassion & Choices Washington.


Members of the Hemlock Society who wanted to provide direct volunteer service to dying people split off and founded Compassion in Dying in Washington State in 1993. That organization provided consultation to dying patients, supported state-based advocacy for choice.

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