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"Death with dignity" legislation introduced in state House

Apr 6, 2017

Doctors would be allowed  to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients who request it, under legislation now in front of the House Health Policy Committee.

The two bills, HB 4461 and 4462, include many safeguards for doctors and patients:

  • Two physicians would have to confirm that death is expected within six months and that the patient is medically competent.
  • The patient would need to make the request for a life-ending drug in writing, and there would be a 15-day waiting period after the first request.
  • There would need to be two witnesses, one of whom is not a relative or the patient's regular physician.
  • The doctor would be required to inform the patient of feasible alternatives like hospice and pain control.
  • Life and health insurance or annuity policies could not be affected by a patient's choosing to end their life in accordance with the legislation.
  • Doctors  would not be required to participate in prescribing end-of-life medication under this bill. Nor could they be subject to criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action for participating.

"With my background as a paramedic and a firefighter, I'd seen many people at the end of life," said Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, who introduced one of the bills. "And I just felt that these individuals have a right to die with dignity."

"I believe I – and anyone else who so chooses – should have the ability to say, 'I don't want to do this any longer. I don't want to have this pain, this suffering,'" said Cochran.

Cochran said under the bills, the patient, not the doctor, would need to administer the medication.

Cochran thinks views are changing on regulated assisted suicide.

He said it's important to have a public discussion of the issues, and he hopes for a hearing in the House Health Policy Committee. 

According to the Death with Dignity National Center, as of February 20, 2017, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state have physician-assisted dying statutes.