Back in November 2008, I wrote a diary on Legalized Assisted Suicide. Up here in Washington State, Initiative 1000 was on the Nov 4 ballot and ultimately passed. Several weeks previous to that diary, I had written about the controversy behind the issue of Assisted Suicide / Death with Dignity.
Well, Washington’s Death and Dignity Act takes effect today and not every hospital or physician is supporting the act as outlined in the Seattle Times.
Follow me below the fold for who's in and who's out and what this all means for the citizens of Washington State ..
University of Washington Medicine health system and Group Health Cooperative have opted in.
Swedish Medical Center is, for the most part, opting out. Swedish will not allow providers to participate on Swedish premises and will not allow its pharmacies to fill prescriptions for life-ending medications.
Virginia Mason Medical Center's hospital will not be participating, though its outpatient clinics can. Virginia Mason will not provide Death with Dignity services in its inpatient hospital. But individual providers in Virginia Mason's outpatient clinics — which includes a cancer institute — can choose whether to participate. Virginia Mason pharmacies will not dispense the lethal medications but its pharmacy staff may tell providers who will.
Since the law passed, health-care facilities have been scrambling to come up with policies. Now, it appears that about a third of the state's hospitals seem to be opting out, said Cassie Sauer, spokeswoman for the Washington State Hospital Association. That means caregivers operating in their facilities or on their behalf are forbidden from helping a patient die, and their pharmacies may not dispense the medications.
And what does this really mean for the people?
Compassion and Choices of Washington are standing their ground in issuing a statement that regardless of what hospitals decide, people should be about to find a doctor who will help them. Their website provides documents, articles, and tips that a person can use to inform, educate and take action. Such as:
If you are dying, first and foremost, let your doctors know that you understand your condition and wish to avoid any treatment designed to prolong your life. A good way to start this dialogue is with a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form that summarizes your end-of-life wishes and requires a physician’s signature.
If any doctor hesitates or disagrees with any stipulation, give your reasons for and feelings about what you are requesting. Tell your doctors you expect their compliance with your end-of-life requests for medical treatment. If you cannot reach agreement with one or more doctors now, you may need to work around them or even get a new doctor.
You have to be specific and forceful in your request. How you frame the request is critical. No doctor wants to be obligated in advance to giving you a prescription for lethal medications, or clearly agree to do so in a manner that could be held against him later if a controversy arose over what he did.
Opponents to I-1000 have formed a grass-roots group called True Compassion Advocates. Demonstrations are occurring today outside of University of Washington's medical center. The advocates for life-affirming choices that don't include ending the life of the patient who needs care are just as compassionate about their perspective ..
Assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of the most vulnerable people in our culture. People with disabilities, the dependent elderly, those who live with depression and mental illness and the poor are all directly threatened by assisted suicide in Washington State and elsewhere.
"Let's not underestimate that this is still a very controversial issue in the United States," said Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory Center for Ethics in Atlanta.
Personally, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the concept of dying with dignity, and what I would do if confronted with the possibility that I had a health issue that was going to end my life. I'm still struggling with it because my faith asks me to believe in something else. I clearly see both sides of the issue and can embrace both arguments.
Clearly, though, the ongoing debate around this issue really demonstrates to me that our society continues to avoid the reality of death. It's really the only universal. We all get to die. Don't even get me started on the funeral services scams, the Botox generation, our elderly spending their dying years in lonely nursing homes. I could go on and on. But I won't.