Compassion & Choices Action Network and End of Life Washington Urge Senate Health Committee to Improve Death With Dignity Act
Legislation would remove barriers to access for terminally ill adults
March 17, 2021
(Olympia, WA) Compassion & Choices Action Network and End of Life Washington today urged members of the Washington Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care to approve HB1141, the Improving Access to Death with Dignity Act.
The committee held a hearing today on the legislation, taking testimony from Compassion & Choices Action Network President and CEO Kim Callinan, End of Life Washington President of the Board Bob Free, medical providers and individuals who support the bill, and Dan Diaz, husband to Brittany Maynard. Brittany was a 29-year old woman with a terminal illness who made national news when she left her home state of California to access medical aid in dying in Oregon.
The committee will hold a vote on the bill in executive session this Friday March 19 at 8:00 am PT.
Those wishing to express their support of the bill may submit written testimony no later than Thursday, March 18 at 8am PT by clicking on this link.
HB 1141 is a bipartisan bill, sponsored by House Health and Wellness Committee members Reps. Skylar Rude (R) and Nicole Macri (D).
The bill would remove unnecessary roadblocks that prevent many terminally ill individuals from accessing medical aid in dying in Washington, especially those who live in medically underserved communities.
Medical aid in dying gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable and die peacefully in their sleep.
HB 1141 would allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or Physician Assistants to act as either the attending or consulting medical provider for individuals who want to access the Death with Dignity Act. A physician would still have to be one of the two providers. The legislation would also reduce the waiting period from first to second request from 15 days to 72 hours, and allow the attending and consulting providers to waive the waiting period if the terminally ill individual’s death is imminent. Finally, the bill would modernize the rules around delivery of the aid in dying prescription from a pharmacy.
“Opponents of this bill use inflammatory words like ‘suicide’ and ‘euthanasia’ in their attempt to scare legislators and the public,” said Dan Diaz in his testimony to the committee. “The reality is that modern medicine cannot control an individual’s pain and suffering at the end of life in 100% of the cases. My wife Brittany had an aggressive brain tumor and we tried every treatment option available. She was only able to achieve a gentle dying process using medical aid in dying.”
“HB1141 contains legislative fixes that will help us achieve a more appropriate balance between safeguards and access, so fewer eligible patients unnecessarily suffer,” said Compassion & Choices Action Network President & CEO Kim Callinan. “Three other authorized states are considering similar improvements this year and the New Mexico state legislature just approved a bill with similar provisions. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, and we urge committee members to vote yes.”
Bob Free, Board President of End of Life Washington said “Washingtonians who want a dignified death without pain and suffering deserve a bill that helps them by removing unnecessary barriers contained in the existing law.”
HB1141 would not change the protections under the existing law. Individuals must still be mentally capable adults that two independent medical providers have diagnosed as having a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live. The individual must make the request on their own behalf, must be educated by their provider on all other end-of-life care options, may be allowed to withdraw their request or decide not to use the medication and must be able to self-ingest the medication.
Medical aid in dying does not allow for the administration by intravenous or other parenteral injection (below the skin) or infusion (insertion into the vein), which are explicitly prohibited by any person, including the doctor, family member or patient themselves.
The Death with Dignity Act was approved by Washington voters in 2008 and took effect in 2009. In twelve years of use in Washington and a combined decades of implementation in other states, there have been no documented instances of abuse or coercion associated with medical aid in dying.
The ten jurisdictions that have authorized medical aid in dying include California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via state Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C. Collectively, they represent one out of five U.S. residents (22%), and have decades of combined experience successfully implementing this medical practice.
The Compassion & Choices Action Network is the largest national 501(C)4 organization who is exclusively devoted to authorizing and defending federal and state policies that improve care and expand options at the end of life.
End of Life Washington is recognized nationally for its advocacy of choice for the terminally ill. We uphold Washingtonians right to the full range of end of life choices, including Death with Dignity, through advocacy, education, and support. For more information, visit endoflifewa.org.
Paid for by the Compassion & Choices Action Network