State of Washington Death With Dignity Act Policy

WhidbeyHealth does not mandate that any physician provider participate in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act,” nor encourage any provider to do so.

Death with Dignity Act

WhidbeyHealth does not require or encourage any physician provider to participate in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act." It is the individual provider’s decision to participate.

It is anticipated that WhidbeyHealth physician providers that practice in community-based settings might choose to voluntarily participate in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act.”

Participation within the inpatient setting will not occur due to the required wait period, the need to ensure patient participation requirements are met, and the need for the patient to self-administer life-ending medications at a time of their own choosing. Therefore, Emergency Department physicians and physicians acting as hospitalists are considered ‘exempt’ from participation. The only exception to this can be a hospitalist choosing to voluntarily act as a “consulting physician.”

Community-Based Providers

WhidbeyHealth allows its community-based providers to participate in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act”, if they so choose. This means providers may:

  • Perform the duties of an attending physician;
  • Perform the duties of a consulting physician;
  • Prescribe the life-ending medication in the community setting; and/or
  • Provide counseling in connection with the provision of life-ending medication.

If any WhidbeyHealth community physician provider participates in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act,” it is the provider’s responsibility to ensure the correct procedures are followed and the correct documentation is completed in accordance with the Act and hospital policy.

While participating in the act, the provider must ensure the appropriate standard of care is followed.

All clinical staff and providers of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center are expected to respond to any patient’s query about life-ending medication with openness and compassion.

We believe our staff have an obligation to openly discuss the patient’s concerns, unmet needs, feelings, and desires about the dying process. Staff should seek to learn the meaning behind the patient’s questions and help the patient understand the range of available options, including but not limited to comfort care, hospice care, and pain control. Ultimately, the goal is to help patients make informed decisions about end-of-life care.

Administration may review records for employed physician providers choosing to participate in the “Washington State Death with Dignity Act” to the extent necessary to ensure all the safeguards of the law have been followed and the required documentation has been completed and submitted to the Department of Health. This would be on a case-by-case basis via the Quality Review process.

Resources

  • Washington State Death with Dignity Act
  • Washington State Department of Health Regulations Chapter 246-978 WAC
  • Oregon Death with Dignity Act: A Guidebook for Health Care Professionals