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On March 5, 2009, Washington state’s Death with Dignity Act will go into effect, allowing competent adults, expected to die within six months, to request a lethal dose of medication from a licensed pharmacist or physician. However, patients must administer the drugs themselves.
Yakima-Herald reported that the “law provides safeguards for patients and physicians. For example, patients would need a medical opinion from two doctors verifying that they have less than six months to live. Physicians who prescribe the medicine and follow the rules would be protected from legal prosecution for promoting or participating in a suicide.”
“A health-care institution can participate, but cannot require a doctor or pharmacist to take part. By the same token, if an institution decides against it, doctors and pharmacists can decide otherwise” (Peninsula Daily News). Of 98 hospitals statewide, so far, 20 have chosen not to participate in the new law.
Washington is the second state to enact a “Death with Dignity” law. Oregon has had a similar act in effect since 1997, under which 341 people have died.