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Washington sees 43 percent increase in participation in Death with Dignity Act

The Washington State Department of Health released its annual report on the state’s Death with Dignity Act, with the report finding that there was a 43 percent increase in participation between 2012 and 2103.

According to the Department of Health, approximately 175 people were given lethal doses of medication between Jan. 1-Dec. 30 of 2013. The department notes that of those 175 people, approximately 153 are known to have died. The discrepancy in numbers, according to the department, may result from a number of factors, including participants who chose not to ingest the medication once it was prescribed and a lack of reporting on others.

They also note that 173 prescriptions were written by 89 different physicians dispensed by 23 different pharmacists.

A wide range of ages were reported, ranging from 29 to 95 years old. According to the report, 95 percent of last year’s participants lived west of the Cascades. The age ranges with the most participants were 55-64 years old, 65-74 years old, 75-84 years old, and 85 plus. Those groups comprised 17, 30, 24, and 20 percent of the total. The data also shows that 77 percent of participants had cancer, while 24 percent had neuro-degenerative diseases. Respiratory diseases, heart disease, and other illnesses rounded out the total.

According to the Department of Health, the main reason for participating stayed the same between 2012 and 2013, with most participants indicating their choice was motivated by their “concern over loss of independence.” Eighty-nine percent also reported that their choice was fueled by their inability to “engage in activities making life enjoyable,” while 79 percent also indicated loss of dignity was a motivating factor.

Since the law was put in place in 2009, approximately 550 people have participated in the program. For more information, visit www.doh.wa.gov.

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