Written into Washington’s Death with Dignity law is the requirement the state’s Health Department must issue annual reports of information collected during the medication request and dispensing process.
Washington’s Department of Health recently issued their 4th annual report, and consistent with all previous years, the data continue to show the law works the way it’s intended: rarely used, but providing comfort to individuals who know they have more options at the end of their lives.
Some quick facts about the usage of Washington’s law in 2012:
- 83 people hastened their deaths under the Washington Death with Dignity Act.
- Prescriptions were written by 87 different physicians.
- 73% of the participants had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, an additional 10% with ALS.
The numbers also show people who request the medication under Washington’s law are receiving high quality end-of-life care:
- 92% of the people who died after exercising their rights allowed under Washington’s law in 2012 were enrolled in hospice. By way of comparison, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization estimates less than half, 45% of deaths in the US, are under the care of hospice.
- Over 89% of the people who used the law died at home. In comparison, the Center for Disease Control reports 45% of deaths throughout the United States occur in a hospital setting.
These 4 years of statistics on Washington’s law and 15 years of data from Oregon reiterate the facts: Death with Dignity laws work and refute all of the opponents’ fear-mongering assertions. The data are so consistent over the years, there’s been little media attention once the pattern of use was understood. Annual reports published after particular milestones—five years, then ten years—were met with media attention and some national notice, but the most recent reports from Oregon and Washington have attracted little more than a brief note in regional publications.
The data haven’t changed, and it’s unfortunate more media attention isn’t given to how the consistent statistics show these laws work and work well. Opponents of Death with Dignity laws will continue to pitch the same myths to make their case, but the data which disprove their false assertions simply isn’t newsworthy these days.
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