By Chris Haring

Washington lawmakers consider amendment expanding the role of nurse practitioners in legal, medically-assisted death for patients with terminal illness. 

In Washington, which passed its initial Death with Dignity bill in 2008, state Senate bill ESSB 5179 proposes allowing nurse practitioners more involvement in medically-assisted death. As Ruby de Luna wrote for KUOW, NPR’s Puget Sound affiliate, the state is one of nine, along with the District of Columbia where the practice is now legal. Other measures proposed as part of the legislation include shortening the patient’s waiting period between oral and written request for the necessary medications from 15 days to seven, and allowing the medications to be delivered or mailed. Advocates note that nurse practitioners are already authorized to serve as attending on record for hospice patients, and that the provisions could help remove accessibility barriers for underserved portions of the state. Read the full article below:

WA bill aims to increase access to Death with Dignity Act

MAR 07, 2023 at 4:23 PM

BY Ruby de Luna

In 2008, Washington voters passed the Death with Dignity Act, a measure allowing terminally ill patients to seek physician-guided assistance with ending their lives. Under the current law, only physicians can carry out a dying patient’s request.

A proposed bill making its way through Olympia, ESSB 5179, would allow nurse practitioners to become more involved in the process.

Darrell Owen, a nurse practitioner, spoke in support of the bill before the House Health and Wellness Committee.

“We are already allowed by law to serve as the attending of record for hospice patients,” Owens said. “We admit hospice patients to the hospital, we sign do not resuscitate orders and death certificates, and we prescribe opioids.”

Additionally, the bill would shorten the patient’s waiting period between oral and written request for the necessary medications from 15 days to seven. It would also allow the necessary medications to be delivered or mailed.

Other supporters like Cassa Sutherland say the changes are overdue and would remove barriers to patients accessing the law.

“The barriers to this law disproportionately affect those living in underserved areas of our state, where participating clinicians are few and far between,” Sutherland said.

But critics like disability rights advocate Conrad Reynoldson call the changes a recipe for disaster.

“This would open the door to more patients potentially being pressured and/or coerced, and to quickly pursuing assisted suicide with little chance for a second opinion or to give it further consideration.”

The Senate passed the bill last month. Washington is among nine states, along with the District of Columbia, that have enacted a death with dignity statute.