The Death with Dignity Act empowers terminally ill, mentally capable Washington residents with six months or less to live to choose to take a prescription in their final days that will end unbearable suffering and allow them to die peacefully.
But too many terminally ill patients are still unable to access medical aid in dying.
Qualified Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) stand ready to serve, but as the law is written, they are currently prohibited from helping in this most crucial area.
Additionally, those who cannot survive the waiting period between first requesting medical aid in dying and receiving their prescription lose the option to choose a peaceful death.
Terminally ill Washingtonians do not have time to wait.
Tell Washington's State Legislators: It's time to update the law to address these major flaws.
Every person in Washington deserves to be empowered to choose end-of-life care that reflects their values, priorities, and beliefs. Washington's Death with Dignity Act has made that possible since 2009, but it needs the crucial updates included in HB 1141 to ensure the benefits of the law extend to all Washingtonians.
Right now, there are extreme disparities when it comes to who is able to access the law. The 2018 Washington Department of Health Death with Dignity Act report showed that 86% of those prescribed medical aid in dying lived west of the Cascades. This means that those living in Eastern Washington have fewer options when it comes to accessing end-of-life care. Additionally, 96% of those who requested medical aid in dying were white, proving the stark disparities in medical care and treatment for historically excluded Washingtonians, brought to light again by COVID-19. And, finally, those who cannot survive the 20 day waiting period between first requesting medical aid in dying and receiving their prescription lose the option to choose a peaceful death.
HB 1141 would help address these disparities by (1) allowing Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners and Physician's Assistants to prescribe medical aid in dying -- allowing more Washingtonians access to healthcare providers who support compassion end-of-life care -- and (2) making the compassionate choice to wave the waiting period for those who will not survive 20 days on the discretion of their doctor.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many disparities in our healthcare system, and passing HB 1141 is one way to ensure every person in Washington can choose a peaceful end of life on their own terms.
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