36 died last year by 'Death with Dignity' law

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by KING5.com Staff

KING5.com

Posted on March 4, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 4 at 7:24 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state has issued its first annual report on the "Death with Dignity Act," which allows terminally ill adults to request prescriptions to end their own lives.

The law, which voters approved in 2008, went into effect March 5, 2009. Between that date and Dec. 31, 2009:

  • 63 prescriptions were filled
  • 47 people who received the prescriptions died, but only 36 of those died after taking the medication
  • The patients who died were between 45 and 90-years-old.
  • More than 90 percent of those who died lived west of the Cascades
  • Most had terminal cancer
  • All were expected to die within six months
  • 53 different doctors wrote the prescriptions
  • 29 different pharmacies filled the prescriptions

The state, quoting the physicians who wrote the prescriptions, say all of the patients who received medication and died had expressed concern about loss of autonomy as a reason for requesting a prescription. Other common reasons included concerns about loss of dignity and loss of the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable.

By law, the state is required to submit an annual report on those who participate in the Death with Dignity Act.

Former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner was a passionate advocate for the law. A documentary about that fight is nominated for an Academy Award, and Gardner will be attending the Oscars on Sunday. Click here to see Linda Brill's report on Gardner.

KING 5 News has also been following the story of Tory Plaisance, who has been diagnosed with cancer and AIDS. He plans to use the new law and has asked KING 5 News to document his journey. You can read more about it by clicking here.

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