On March 5, 2009, the Washington Death with Dignity Act (WDDA) became effective. The WDDA is modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. It is codified at Chapter 70.245 RCW. In order to receive the prescribed medication to end your life, you must be:
- an adult resident of Washington
- diagnosed as terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than 6 months
- capable and competent to make requests for the medication, both orally and in writing.
First, you need to make an oral request to your attending physician.
Second, at least 15 days after making your initial oral request, you need to reiterate your request.
Third, two physicians, your attending physician and a consulting physician, need to concur in your prognosis and also must verify that you are “competent, acting voluntarily, and [have] made an informed decision.” If the attending physician or consulting physician believe that you may be suffering from “psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment,” they may refer you to counseling. The counselor will need to confirm that your judgment is not impaired prior to medication being prescribed.
Fourth, after the physicians concur, you must issue a written request for the medication, in a form substantially complying with the statute which must be witnessed by two people. One person must be a person who is not:
- a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption
- a person entitled to any part of your estate by Will or operation or law
- an owner, operator or employee of any healthcare facility where you receive medical treatment or reside
If you are a patient in a long term care facility, one of the witnesses must be an individual designated by facility such as an ombudsman, chaplain, or social worker.
The physician must wait at least 48 hours after you sign the written request before issuing the prescription. Your attending physician is required to recommend that you notify your next of kin, but you are not required to do so. Your attending physician is also required to give you an opportunity to rescind your request.
This overview provides general information and not legal advice or opinions on specific facts.
Death with Dignity Act, Washington State, by Stacey Romberg.