Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act: 2013 Annual Report.

Official report on the implementation of physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. State of Washington in 2013.

Official data have just been released relating to deaths in 2013 under Washington State’s physician-assisted suicide law. 

The latest figures show a 43 per cent increase in deaths caused by ingestion of lethal drugs supplied to patients under the terms of Washington’s 2008 law.  As a result the number of deaths from physician-assisted suicide is more than three times the number in the first year (2009) of the law’s operation.  While the 2009 baseline figure covered only 10 months and is not therefore on all fours with the figures for succeeding years, the number of assisted suicide deaths has risen in every year since the law came into force. 

The unusual feature of the 2013 report is the size of the increase.  The latest figure may also be on the low side as it does not take account of some recipients of lethal drugs who died during 2013 but whose “ingestion status is unknown”.

The reasons given by those to whom lethal drugs were dispensed, including “losing autonomy” and “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable”, will be familiar to those who have read the annual reports on neighbouring Oregon’s assisted suicide law.  Interestingly, 61 per cent of those who received lethal drugs in Washington in 2013 gave as a reason for seeking assisted suicide being a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.  Inadequate pain control or the fear of it came low down in the list.


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