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Compassion & Choices Action Network and End of Life Washington Urge Passage of Bill to Improve Death With Dignity Act

Legislation would remove barriers to access for terminally ill adults

(Olympia, WA — Jan. 18, 2021) Compassion & Choices Action Network and End of Life Washington today urged members of the Washington House Committee on Health Care & Wellness to approve HB1141, the Improving Access to Death with Dignity Act. 

On Monday January 18, the committee held a hearing on HB1141, taking testimony from Compassion & Choices Action Network President and CEO Kim Callinan, End of Life Washington Board Chairman Robert Free, and medical providers and individuals who support the bill.

HB 1141 is a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Health and Wellness Committee members Reps. Skyler Rude (R) and Nicole Macri (D).

Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in nine states and Washington, DC, and 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 other providers in either case. The legislation would also reduce the waiting period 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 iminent. Finally, the bill would modernize the rules around how and when individuals can obtain their aid in dying prescription from a pharmacy.

The bill would not change the eligibility requirements under the existing law. Individuals must still be mentally capable adults with 6 months or less to live, must make the request on their own behalf, must be educated by their physician 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. 

“This year, the COVID public health emergency brought about a deeper understanding of the tragedy of loved ones suffering at life’s end, and the limits of modern medicine to fully relieve that suffering, said Kim Callinan, President & CEO of Compassion & Choices Action Network. “It also reinforced the need to modernize Washington’s Death with Dignity Law to better reflect the current practice of medicine so that eligible Washington residents do not unnecessarily suffer.”

“Too many terminally ill Washingtonians are suffering in their final days, said Judy Kinney, Executive Director, End of Life Washington. “HB 1141 maintains the protections that matter most to our state’s voters and removes restrictive roadblocks often result in unnecessary physical and emotional pain for those who want to access medical aid in dying.”  

The nine states 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, these 10 jurisdictions 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.


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