Washington Senate Committee Advances Bill to Improve Access to Death With Dignity Act

Bill now headed to Senate floor; already cleared House
March 26, 2021

(Olympia, WA)  Compassion & Choices Action Network and End of Life Washington applauded today’s vote by the Washington Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care to approve HB1141, the Improving Access to Death with Dignity Act. The vote was 7-5. The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Reps. Skyler Rude (R) and Nicole Macri (D). The House approved the bill on February 25 with a bipartisan vote of 60-37.

The legislation would remove roadblocks that currently prevent many qualified terminally ill individuals from accessing medical aid in dying, especially those who live in medically underserved communities.

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, and the two providers may not have a direct supervisory relationship with each other.

The legislation would also reduce the waiting period from 15 days to 72 hours, and allow the attending provider to waive the waiting period if the terminally ill individual’s death is imminent.

Finally, the bill would modernize the rules around how and when individuals can obtain their aid in dying prescription from a pharmacy, allowing electronic prescribing and medications to be shipped instead of picked up in person.

At a hearing on March 17, Senate Committee members heard from Compassion & Choices Action Network President and CEO Kim Callinan and End of Life Washington Board Chairman Robert Free, medical providers and individuals who supported 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.

“This vote is an important victory for terminally ill Washingtonians,” said Compassion & Choices Action Network NW Regional Advocacy Manager Jennifer Parrish Taylor. “Thank you to the Senate Health Committee members who voted to support the option of a peaceful death for those who qualify. Our gratitude also extends to the many advocates, medical providers and family members who have testified and given their time and energy to this important effort. Thank you again to Reps. Rude and Macri and all the bill cosponsors for making this legislation a priority.”

“We appreciate the thoughtfulness exercised by the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee and the vote to continue the conversation regarding the commonsense updates to the Death with Dignity Act with the full Senate” said Judy Kinney, Executive Director of End of Life Washington.  “It is essential that we separate the many myths from the clear facts associated with this bill.”

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.

HB1141 would not change the eligibility requirements under the existing law. Individuals must still be mentally capable adults with six 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 injections or infusions via a vein or any other parenteral route, as these are explicitly prohibited by any person, including the doctor, family member or patient themselves.

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. For more information visit compassionanchoices.org

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 Compassion & Choices Action Network

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