SEATTLE, July 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Washington State Medical
Association (WSMA) opposes Initiative-1000, the measure to legalize
physician-assisted suicide in Washington state. The opposition was
emphatically voted on at the WSMA's annual meeting last year.
"We believe physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible
with the role of physicians as healers," said WSMA President Brian P.
Wicks, MD. "Patients put their trust in physicians and that bond of trust
would be irrevocably harmed by the provisions of this dangerous
The WSMA has opposed assisted suicide since 1991 when a similar
initiative was proposed and defeated. The state medical associations in 49
states oppose assisted suicide and the Oregon Medical Association supported
repeal of the state's "Death with Dignity Act" in 1997, characterizing it
as "fundamentally flawed." Washington's Initiative-1000 is virtually
identical to this flawed Act. The American Medical Association is also
opposed to physician-assisted suicide.
"Initiative-1000 gives doctors power which we do not want and which we
believe is contrary to good medical practice," said Wicks. "The initiative
is a dangerous distraction from symptom-directed end-of-life care that
provides comfort for dying patients and their families. Our focus should
remain on caring for terminally ill patients and should never shift toward
helping them kill themselves."
I-1000 has some special problems that should worry even those not
opposed to assisted suicide in principle, according to Wicks.
"Under I-1000, if a physician prescribes a lethal overdose, when that
physician completes the death certificate, he or she is required --
actually required -- to list the underlying disease (say lung cancer) as
the cause of death, even when the doctor knows full well that the patient
died due to the suicidal overdose he or she prescribed," Wicks said. "To my
knowledge, there's no other situation in medicine in which the death
certificate is deliberately falsified -- and in which this falsification is
mandated by law."
The Secretary of State's office is in the process of counting
signatures submitted by Initiative-1000 proponents and will know soon
whether enough signatures were collected to put the initiative on the
The proposed initiative would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal
overdose of barbiturates or other drugs to patients over 17 years old who a
physician believes to have a life expectancy of six months or less.
The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) represents over 9,000
physicians and surgeons throughout the state of Washington. More
information about the WSMA can be found at www.wsma.org.
SOURCE Washington State Medical Association