Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Washington State assisted suicide expansion bill (HB 1281).

The assisted suicide lobby wants less oversight while failing to maintain effective oversight of the law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Washington state assisted suicide expansion bill (HB 1281) is the third attempt in Washington state to expand their asssisted suicide law.

A few weeks ago I published an important article about an excellent analysis by Richard Doerflinger of Washington State's assisted suicide law titled: Lethal Non-Compliance with Washington's Death with Dignity Act.

In his analysis, Doerflinger explains that of the 400 people, in 2021, who were prescribed lethal assisted suicide drugs, there were: 
  • 291 reported assisted suicide deaths, 
  • 44 of the people died of other causes, 
  • 13 of the people, the death status was unknown,
  • and 52 people died but the report says that they do not know whether this was from ingesting the drugs.

This means that potentially 96 lethal prescriptions were not ingested by the patient and their whereabouts are unknown. The 52 people who received lethal drugs but their ingestion status is unknown, may or may not have died by assisted suicide.

Considering this, and other concerning data, it is shocking that House Bill 1281 proposes to expand Washington state's assisted suicide law (among other ways) by:

  1. Changes the definition of who can approve and prescribe assisted suicide from physicians to "qualified medical providers" which includes: physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
  2. Expands who can counsel a person when the consent is considered questionable, from psychiatrists or psychologists to include independent clinical social worker, advanced social worker, mental health counselor, or psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner.
  3. Permitting the lethal drugs to be delivered by courier or mail service.
  4. Shortens the waiting period from 15 days to 7 days.
  5. It allows the "qualified medical provider" to waive the 7 day waiting period if someone is nearing death, allowing a same day death.
  6. It limits the right of a religiously based healthcare provider from preventing an employee from providing assisted suicide.

I stated above (among other ways) because HB 1281 offers several minor amendments to the assisted suicide law that I have not listed.

The assisted suicide lobby is trying to expand who can approve and prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs to create greater access to assisted suicide. They are also wanting to enable lethal assisted suicide drugs to be delivered by a courier service to make it easier to access assisted suicide. Since assisted suicide can be approved by telemedicine and lethal drugs can be received by courier, therefore a person can request, be approved and die by assisted suicide without ever leaving the home.

Remember: Lethal assisted suicide drugs are dangerous and need to be strictly controlled.

Reducing the waiting period to 7 days and then allowing the waiting period to be waived when someone is deemed to be dying, enables a same day death. A person's bad day can become their last day.

Considering the existing Lethal Non-Compliance with Washington's Death with Dignity Act. For the 400 participants who received the lethal dose in 2021, missing required documentation included:
  • 46 written and witnessed requests from patients 
  • 35 attending physician compliance forms 
  • 47 consulting physician compliance forms 
  • 20 pharmacy dispensing forms 
  • 39 after-death reporting forms*

Assisted suicide is a life and death issue and yet the assisted suicide lobby wants less oversight of the law and easier acess to death and yet the current documentation is often left unreported.

HB 1281 needs to be defeated and Washington state needs to do a thorough examination into the workings of its current assisted suicide statute.

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