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Washington state to begin Death with Dignity Act

Washington state to begin Death with Dignity Act

The state of Washington passed a law allowing terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to ask their doctors for lethal medication.

The law, known as the Death with Dignity Act, will be in effect Thursday, according to Yahoo! News.

Dr. Tom Preston, a retired cardiologist and board member of Compassion & Choices, the group that campaigned for and supports the law, told Yahoo! News he believes there will be an increase in discussion about the issue between doctors and patients because of the law and over time more doctors will be open to participating.

Though patients will be able to ask their doctors for the medication, physicians and pharmacists are not required to prescribe or fill the prescriptions if they oppose the law. Some hospitals are not going to participate. The Olympian reported about a few hospitals whose board of commissioners voted against following the law in their hospital, including Prosser Memorial Hospital in Prosser, Wash., who will prohibit its medical staff, employees, independent contractors and volunteers from "assisting terminally ill patients in ending their own lives on the hospital's premises."

The law requires that any patient requesting fatal medication be at least 18 years old, declared competent, and a state resident. The patient would hve to make two oral requests, 15 days apart, and submit a written request witnessed by two people, one of which must not be connected to the requester or health facility where the requester lives. Additionally, two doctors must certify that the patient has a terminal condition and six months or less to live.