Terminally ill residents of Washington state will soon be able to ask doctors for lethal medication in a landmark decision to allow assisted suicide, the Associated Press reported.
The state's new "Death with Dignity" law will take effect Thursday, giving patients who have less than six months to live the option of assisted suicide. The patients' request can be blocked if doctors refuse to prescribe the fatal drugs.
The law requires patients to provide two oral requests, fifteen days apart, and submit a written request witnessed by two people. Two different doctors must then certify that the patient has less than half a year to live.
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"I believe for the sake of compassion, and for a person's own individual rights, this should be an option for [patients]," Dr. Robert Thompson, a cardiologist who voted for the euthanasia measure, told the AP.
Though doctors like Thompson felt positively about the law, others said it would cost some patients their lives too early.
Retired cardiologist Dr. Tom Preston, a board member of Compassion & Choices, the committee that campaigned for the "Death with Dignity" law, said the new policy will cause a dramatic change in the practice of health care.
"It will be a cultural shift," Dr. Preston said.
Washington is the second state to approve doctor-assisted suicide since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that it was up to states to regulate the practice. Oregon currently follows a similar "Death by Dignity" law.