Dear friends and neighbors,
We have learned much since voters in our state approved the Death with Dignity Act by initiative in 2008. The law allows terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to request lethal doses of medication from medical and osteopathic physicians. For many, the law has been a blessing and provided great comfort. Some people merely requested the drugs and took comfort knowing that they were available in case the suffering became intolerable. Others experiencing tremendous pain have used the drugs to choose the time of their own passing.
We have also heard about barriers people face when trying to access the law. We have heard heart-wrenching stories of family members who had to watch loved ones suffer needlessly before they died. This year, I introduced Senate Bill 5179 to remove unnecessary barriers to accessing the law. The bill shortens the waiting time between the two required oral requests for medication from 15 days to 7 days It allows advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be one of the health care providers who signs off on the prescription (the other must still be a physician). And it permits the medications to be mailed to patients, rather than requiring that they be picked up in pharmacies. Hospitals will no longer be able to prohibit their employees, when off duty and off premises, from participating in the act. They must also file their policies regarding the act with the Department of Health.
I believe that the bill will help patients and their families in our state who are wrestling with very difficult end-of-life decisions and allow them more agency to decide what that end will be like. I was proud to celebrate the passage of this bill with many passionate advocates who have worked tirelessly over the last few years to advance these changes.
Improving access to affordable, high-quality health care
As we do every session, the Legislature also worked hard to improve access to health care. We passed several bills to support the health care workforce, establish new health professions, and lower prescription drug costs.
- SB 5236 creates an enforcement mechanism to require hospitals to adhere to safe staffing standards to mitigate burnout and improve patient care.
- SB 5538 removes barriers for retired nurses wanting to return to patient care.
- SB 5499 makes it easier for nurses from out of state to practice here by joining the national Nurse Licensure Compact, an agreement among 37 states on a single nursing license that allows nurses to practice in any member state.
- HB 1001 makes it easier for audiologists or speech-language pathologists to practice in Washington.
- HB 1247 makes music therapy a recognized health profession, making this innovative care more available to those who did not previously have access.
- SB 5729 ensures that Washingtonians with diabetes will continue to pay no more than $35 a month for insulin by making the temporary cost cap permanent.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter. I will continue to send weekly updates on key policies passed during this year’s legislative session. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, public education, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action, or criminal justice reform, they are available on my website. Please reach out with any questions at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.