On March 5, 2009, the Washington State Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) went into effect. The Act allows terminally ill patients, determined by a physician to have less than six months to live and who have met specific legislated requirements, to “qualify” and thus request and self-administer lethal medications prescribed by a physician. The law does not require an individual healthcare provider to participate, and it permits healthcare facilities to choose not to allow participation by healthcare providers on their premises. Initiative 1000 legislation allows physicians, pharmacists, counselors and hospitals alike to make decisions regarding the level of individual “provider” participation.
Following thoughtful conversations with our medical staff leadership, pharmacy staff, administrative leaders, and the Board of Commissioners, Valley Medical Center, Public Hospital District No. 1 of King County, has chosen to follow the directive of the majority vote to enact I-1000 and will “opt in” to participate as a provider under the ‘Washington State Death with Dignity Act.’ By participating, Valley Medical Center demonstrates our respect for the right of patients to make choices, in partnership with their long-term healthcare providers, related to their own end-of-life care. Valley Medical Center recognizes as well, the right of any healthcare provider to counsel patients on their options and to participate, if they so choose, in activities under I-1000. Additionally, we acknowledge and respect the right of any healthcare provider to decline to participate in activities specific to I-1000.
Valley Medical Center is an acute-care hospital—the staff is dedicated to providing high-quality acute and tertiary care services to patients. Following careful consideration of participation, it has been determined that although we support I-1000, Valley Medical Center is not the appropriate setting to meet the needs of “qualified patients” choosing to ingest life-ending medications. Therefore, self-administration of life-ending medication will not be permitted on Valley Medical Center premises.
For all patients facing end-of-life decisions, emphasis will be placed on informing them of their rights and options for care management including pain management and hospice. Patients may also be referred to other providers if their needs cannot be sufficiently met at Valley Medical Center.
For more information on Death with Dignity in Washington State, click here.