Washington’s New Death with Dignity Law Necessitates Estate Planning

by | Jan 19, 2012 | Uncategorized

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In late 2008, the state of Washington passed a law that allows terminally ill patients to die with dignity through the self-administration of a fatal prescription drug. There are several factors involved in the process of implementation. If you are contemplating this option or have a family member that is doing so, it is very important to contact an estate planning lawyer in Spokane who can help guide you through the legal issues of the process, as well as perform estate planning preparations in the event of an intentional demise.

According to the statute, there are several things that must occur before a patient can implement the death with dignity law, and it would be prudent to seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer in Spokane as soon as a preliminary decision is made.

The patient must first verbally express his desire to take the medication that will end his life. There is a waiting period of 15 days that follows an initial request, which is to be followed by a written request. The law seems to adhere to the idea that ending one’s own life should not be an impulsive decision, so the timeline from the moment of written request to the possible administration of the drug is not altogether clear. A patient diagnosis must follow the written request, however, in which the physician treating the patient verifies that his illness is terminal, and that diagnosis must be followed by a second opinion. A licensed medical health professional may then visit with the patient based on the referral of either doctor to discuss the decision and ensure that it is voluntary and made with full mental capacity and cognizance. By law, the treating physician must give the patient an opportunity to change his mind, and in response, the patient must repeat his initial request. Finally, the patient is given the medication, and is allowed to administer it to himself, which results in death. When and where the patient takes the medication is apparently open to interpretation.

Having an estate planning lawyer in Spokane available during this process to not only advise the patient or family members on the decision but also to make sure that all wishes are followed upon the patient’s death is absolutely critical. The decision to die with dignity when faced with terminal illness should be carefully discussed, debated, and, finally, respected. An estate planning law firm in Spokane can help make sure all things are in order when such a decision has been made.