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Assisted Suicide Initiative Challenged in Washington

Disability advocates, medical professionals, pro-life advocates, and other opponents of physician-assisted suicide have filed a lawsuit to stop a proposed Washington ballot initiative legalizing the practice.

The Coalition Against Assisted Suicide maintains that the wording of Initiative 1000 fails to inform voters of all the potential changes to state law and argues that it not only encourages assisted suicide but provides a protocol for facilitating the practice.

According to The Olympian, the coalition also objects to parts of the proposal that fail to require an individual seeking help in ending his or her life to undergo a mental health evaluation and another provision that does not require notice to family members.

In January 2008, former Washington Governor Booth Gardner (who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease) filed the initiative, seeking to put the measure on the November ballot. The initiative, modeled after Oregon’s law permitting assisted suicide, would allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of barbiturates to terminally-ill patients who have been diagnosed with six months or less to live.

Under Washington law, supporters must gather 225,000 valid signatures by July to put the initiative on the ballot.

In recent years, 25 states have considered and rejected physician-assisted suicide laws, including Washington, where another initiative was rejected by voters in 1991.

Currently, only one state, Oregon, has legalized assisted suicide, while 44 states prohibit the practice. The status of physician-assisted suicide is unclear in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming.

For more information about physician-assisted suicide, go to “Physician-Assisted Suicide: The inevitable slide toward euthanasia (PDF)” in Defending Life 2008.

To learn more about the battle over the Washington initiative, go to Coalition Against Assisted Suicide – Washington