As an experienced emergency-medicine physician, I believe we should do everything we can to avoid deaths filled with suffering and fear. For those terminally ill patients who can qualify, our state’s Death with Dignity law allows them the option to face death on their own terms.
But the law’s 15-day waiting period does nothing for the 40% to 50% of terminally ill patients who have just a few weeks to live. These patients are forced to die in pain. Even with palliative and hospice care present, some emotional and physical agony is too great to manage.
Many terminally ill patients want to exhaust every life-extending treatment available, but when those treatments fail and there is no hope for cure, the person deserves an option for a death that is aligned with their personal, family and spiritual values. They should not be punished for being unable to survive the waiting period.
That’s why I support HB 1141, now before the Washington Senate, which would shorten the Death with Dignity waiting period to 72 hours. Our state should join Oregon and New Mexico in allowing dying adults of sound minds to have the shorter time requirement to access end-of-life medication.
Roy Graves, M.D., Anacortes, American Academy of Emergency Medicine Fellow and volunteer medical adviser, End of Life Washington