As I-1000 Signatures are Counted, Washington State Medical Association Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide Reiterated

Jul 02, 2008, 01:00 ET from Washington State Medical Association

    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
 November ballot.
     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

SOURCE Washington State Medical Association