Suicide in Washington State

Perhaps you noticed that Washington voters approved Initiative-1000 in the general election just concluded. In 2009-Q1 I-1000 will establish a copy of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” assisted suicide procedures here in Washington.

The only hospital, and the largest health care provider, where I live in Whatcom County is Peace Health — a Catholic nonprofit organization headquartered, if memory serves, in Bellevue (WA). Peace Health just announced that none of their physicians, about 400 of whom work here in Bellingham, will be allowed to prescribe fatal drugs under the upcoming I-1000 regime. Other large medical practices say they are studying their policy options on this topic and will presumably announce decisions later. To my knowledge, no medical practices — in our area at least — have announced support for I-1000 yet.

Earlier this year, we had litigation and political angst over the desire of (just reelected) Governor Christine Gregorie’s to force pharmacists to dispense the abortion-inducing drug “Plan B” (also known as RU-486), even if individual pharmacists were morally unwilling to do so. I don’t remember the outcome of that litigation, but perhaps a kind reader will clarify that point by posting a comment.

I speculate that there will soon be similar conflicts over assisted-suicide, analogous to the previous dispute over RU-486.

Apparently we’re really into death here in Washington…perhaps it’s the long dark winters?