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New England Journal of Medicine Looks at Washington's Death with Dignity Act

Dr. Remmel with his sons, photo provided to NBC News by Grace Wang

When Washington's Death with Dignity Act took effect in 2009, medical groups throughout the state took the law's built-in safeguards as a guide for formulating their own internal policies for honoring their terminally ill patients' new legal rights. One of these institutions, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, just published an analysis of their experience with patients who requested the prescribed medication in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their conclusion: "Overall, our Death with Dignity program has been well accepted by patients and clinicians."

Echoing what we've seen through the Washington Department of Health's annual reports of usage, this study found the law is used by a small minority of the clinic's patients and "patients and families were grateful to receive the lethal prescription, whether it was used or not."

Read more: New England Journal of Medicine Looks at Washington's Death with Dignity Act

Vermont House Committees Hear Testimony on Death with Dignity Bill

Patient Choices VT Ad "Now--Not in 10 Years"

The proposed Vermont Death with Dignity bill started its journey through the state's House of Representatives in earnest this week. The bill (Senate Bill 77) took some unusual turns before being approved by the Senate on February 14th of this year. This week, House Judiciary and Human Services committees heard from Senators about the bill's path in the Senate and end-of-life care experts familiar with the need for safeguards in Death with Dignity laws.

The hearings started on Wednesday with Sen. Claire Ayer explaining the process the bill went through in the Senate. She was followed by many people with extensive knowledge about Death with Dignity laws including Jean Mallary—widow of Vermont Congressman Richard Mallary.

Hearings continued on Thursday and included supportive testimony from several notables: two former governors, Barbara Roberts from Oregon and Madeleine Kunin from Vermont; Harry Chen, Vermont Commissioner of Public Health; George Eighmey, the newest Death with Dignity National Center board member, former Oregon legislator, and former executive director of the Oregon nonprofit which works directly with patients to access the state's Death with Dignity Act; and respected palliative care physician Diana Barnard.

Read more: Vermont House Committees Hear Testimony on Death with Dignity Bill

Advance Directives: the Why and How

National Healthcare Decisions Day

This blog post is the second in a series of guest posts by Arashi about end-of-life care planning and documentation in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day.

Discussing advance directives with loved ones and health care proxies can be difficult. Often people are afraid of discussing anything regarding death and dying and ignore the topic altogether. Many people think their family members will "know what to do when the time comes," so there's no reason to make a legal document.

Read more: Advance Directives: the Why and How

Death with Dignity was Booth Gardner and Blair Butterworth's legacy

Christian Sinderman

Christian Sinderman is a political consultant based in Seattle, Washington who's worked on campaigns for former Gov. Chris Gregoire, Gov. Jay Inslee and other transportation and education measures. This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times, and it's republished with permission.

Last month, Washington lost two important, provocative voices. Former Gov. Booth Gardner, a public figure and master of the understatement, succumbed to a decadelong battle with Parkinson's disease. Democratic strategist Blair Butterworth, a behind-the-scenes figure and master of bombast lost a tragic battle with cancer.

Each sought different paths to make a lasting mark on our political landscape. Booth served as governor for two terms; Blair helped elect two governors. Booth quietly shaped public opinion; Blair launched expletive-laden rants to bend political will. They united in 2008 to seek passage of Initiative 1000, which codified Washington's Death With Dignity Act.

Both men passed within weeks of one another, almost four years to the date of the law taking effect. Blair used the law they fought to pass.

Read more: Death with Dignity was Booth Gardner and Blair Butterworth's legacy

This Week in the Movement

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date with information about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook and Twitter. Below are highlights from this week.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

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Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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