Death with Dignity

RUNPHOTO / GETTY IMAGES

RUNPHOTO / GETTY IMAGES

I’ll be the first to admit this topic is controversial. It’s been a political, moral and religious issue over the years, and Capability Homecare is not advocating one way or the other- but I think it is always a good idea to be informed and educated, even if it doesn’t apply to you. You never know… perhaps one day you can be a resource to someone else in need.

So what is this hot issue?

It’s the DWDA which stands for Death with Dignity Act, also known as Initiative 1000. This is a law in the state of Washington that “…allows terminally ill adults seeking to end their life to request lethal doses of medication from medical and osteopathic physicians. These terminally ill patients must be Washington residents who have less than six months to live.” *

In other words,if you are facing a terminal diagnosis and decide you would rather not undergo any treatment, you can make the choice to end your life. This is not a choice that can be made lightly, and there are provisions in place to ensure that the person making this decision is of sound mind. You must have two licensed physicians determine if you qualify. If there is any concern of the competency of the patient, than a psychological evaluation is required. The patient must make two oral requests separated by 15 days, and you have the right to change your mind at any time during the process.

Typically the patients who decide to take this route are cancer patients. In fact in the year 2013, 77% of the people who died under this act were cancer patients**. This does not mean they can not also receive hospice or palliative care. A person can make the choice to end their life, but they still have access to end of life care.

One important thing to know about the DWDA is that it allows individual physicians and pharmacists, as well as health care systems, to opt out of participation. For example, all Catholic health providers in Washington prohibit their physicians and pharmacists from participating.

If you need help in any way regarding DWDA, you can reach out to Compassion & Choices . They are a non profit organization that can aid you in navigating this decision and help you find participating physicians.  They offer services such as supporting families, making referrals, advocating for pain management and promoting use of advance directives. If you’d like to learn more, there will be an Advance Planning Seminar on November 1st in Seattle. For more information, contact Compassion & Choices at 206 256 1636.

Facing a terminal illness, is not something that one should go through alone. If you are terminally ill, reach out for help. Most hospitals have some sort of support group, social worker or counseling services available.

Again, Capability Homecare is not supporting or advocating DWDA. Our mission is to help seniors remain in their homes (age in place) and receive the best possible care available. Our caregivers can assist with personal care, housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, ambulation and much more. For more information on our services, click here.

*http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/DeathwithDignityAct

**http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/Pubs/422-109-DeathWithDignityAct2013.pdf

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