Death with Dignity Act

Skagit Regional Health has a policy regarding the state’s Death with Dignity Act. The law, which took effect on March 4, 2009, requires hospitals to make a public statement of policy.

The policy approved by the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 27, 2009 does not allow patients to self-administer life-ending medications at Skagit Valley Hospital or Cascade Valley Hospital. Additionally, the policy does not allow hospital pharmacies to fill a prescription for life-ending medication.

However, the policy does allow providers who desire to do so to respond to, and openly discuss, any patient’s inquiry about life-ending medication and help patients make informed decisions about end-of-life care and options. Healthcare providers at Skagit Valley Hospital and Cascade Valley Hospital may perform the duties of an attending or consulting physician, may prescribe life-ending medication, may provide counseling or perform other duties as allowed by the law.

The act requires that an adult Washington resident who is certified as having a terminal illness with six months or less to live, who is found to be competent by two physicians, may voluntarily request a prescription for life-ending medication three times. The requests must include two oral and one written request spanning at least 15 days, and the patient must be able to self-administer the lethal drug.

The Death with Dignity Act is clear that no provider, including providers at Skagit Valley Hospital and Cascade Valley Hospital, are required to assist a qualified patient in ending his or her own life.

Skagit Valley Hospital and Cascade Valley Hospital will continue to provide compassionate, high-quality care to all our patients. Any patient wishing to receive life-ending medication while a patient at Skagit Valley Hospital or Cascade Valley Hospital will be assisted in transfer to another facility of the patient’s choice and will be assured continuity of care.

Learn more about the Washington State Death with Dignity Act.