by Nancy Sapiro, JD, EOLWA Lobbyist

We are thrilled to report that Senate Bill 5179, which will increase access to our state’s Death with Dignity Law (DWD), recently passed through both houses of the WA State Legislature and has now been signed into law by Governor Inslee. As you likely know from our alerts and newsletters, SB 5179 will improve access to our state’s Death with Dignity law by shortening the waiting period from 15 days to 7 days, increasing the types of providers that can participate in DWD, and allowing prescriptions to be delivered by registered mail.

Getting to this point has been a several-year journey. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of everyone in the EOLWA community – from caregivers, patients, board members, community supporters, and staff. It was your willingness to reach out to legislators, to come to testify and share your stories and experiences, to talk with neighbors and friends about the importance of these policy changes, that enabled us to garner the support we needed to finally pass this legislation. And it also would not have been possible without our legislative champions, Senator Jamie Pedersen and Rep Skyler Rude. Thank you all! The legislation will become effective in late July of this year.

What does this mean for EOLWA and patients throughout the state? Well, first of all, we have lots of work to do – creating new internal procedures, educating pharmacists about the updates to the law, educating Advance Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) about how they can become participating providers; and also making sure our current participating providers know about the changes to the law. But ultimately, we hope that it will mean fewer challenges and greater accessibility for people seeking to utilize our state’s medical aid in dying law.

We know that 70% of people who come to EOLWA seeking access to medical aid-in-dying find themselves without a provider who can help them. We know that 27 of the 39 counties in this state don’t have a compounding pharmacy to prepare or dispense medications. We also know that the 15-day waiting period can be an unbearably long period of needless suffering. So, it is our deep hope that these modest changes to the law will create more equitable access to care for people at the end of their lives. Because as part of the EOLWA community, we understand that dying well matters; our bodies and dignity matter. Thank you for your support!