Go beyond the headlines on cops and courts.
Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business.
Rules governing state's Death With Dignity law debated
At a hearing Tuesday on the Death With Dignity Act, supporters and opponents of the measure — set to take effect March 5 — gave testimony on how the law should and should not be carried out.
Seattle Times staff reporter
TUMWATER — In less than a month, Washington will become the second state to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for terminally ill patients seeking to hasten their deaths.
At a hearing Tuesday, attended by about 80 people, some gave emotional testimony on how the law should — and should not — be carried out.
The state Department of Health's draft rules include forms that patients, doctors and pharmacists will have to fill out; reporting requirements for physicians; and qualifications for witnesses.
Voters in November approved Initiative 1000, the Death With Dignity Act, with nearly 58 percent of the vote.
Those in favor of the act said Tuesday they supported the rules as drafted, urging the department not to add bureaucratic red tape for patients who want to use the law. They said similar rules are working well in Oregon, which has had a Death With Dignity Act for a decade.
Those opposed, who regard the act as physician-assisted suicide, said the rules don't provide enough safeguards. They called for more oversight, including a way for people to report abuse and penalties for doctors who don't fulfill the reporting requirements.
Nancy Niedzielski, who was featured prominently in ads for I-1000, recounted how her husband, Randy, died painfully of brain cancer in 2006. He had excellent hospice care, she said. Yet, the hospice program could only provide eye drops when his brain tumor got so large he couldn't close his eyes, and ran out of options for pain relief because Randy was allergic to morphine.
"This law means everything to me," said Niedzielski, who urged adoption of the rules without changes.
Former Gov. Booth Gardner, who filed the initiative and was one of its biggest campaign contributors, said, "I think what's been drafted so far is extremely good."
But Dr. Patricia O'Halloran, a physician in Tacoma, said there was little to ensure that a patient makes a fully informed decision. She wants a mechanism for people to report abuse and get feedback on how those concerns are addressed.
"Doctors are being given the power to assist patients in taking their own lives," O'Halloran said after the hearing. "It's very open to abuse."
And Jim Thomas, with the Seattle Archdiocese's Office of Catholic Faith Formation, was troubled that the health department doesn't have enforcement authority if a physician violates the rules.
"It raises questions of how well people can be protected," he said.
The comments from the hearing, as well as those submitted in writing, will be taken into consideration, with the final rules to be determined by the state Secretary of Health.
The law will go into effect March 5.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment