Search Virginia Mason News

SEATTLE - (Feb. 26, 2009) — Virginia Mason's participation in Washington state's Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) will vary depending on whether the health-care provider is providing medical services in the inpatient hospital or outpatient clinic setting.

Virginia Mason has chosen not to participate in the hospital setting due to procedural complexities and the requirement for patient self-administration. Health-care providers in an outpatient clinic setting who wish to provide the medical services as described in the statute may do so. Virginia Mason pharmacies will not dispense the lethal medications. Pharmacy staff will provide assistance to providers by identifying dispensing locations on a case-by-case basis.

"The physical and emotional care of patients is Virginia Mason's top priority, and we understand that the end of life is when support is needed more than ever," said Sarah Patterson, Virginia Mason's chief operating officer. "The passage of the act in November underscores the need for more public awareness of the care available for patients nearing their death."

As the Death with Dignity Act is implemented, Virginia Mason places importance in its palliative care program to educate patients. The program's goal is to help patients consider all appropriate options, like pain management and hospice, for end-of-life care, so patients can make thoughtful, informed decisions around their specific needs.

Background
On March 4, 2009, Washington state's Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) goes into effect. The Act allows terminally ill patients, determined by a physician to have less than six months to live, to request and self-administer lethal medications prescribed by a physician. The law does not require an individual health-care provider to participate in the process. It does permit health-care facilities to choose not to allow participation by health-care providers on their premises.

The law provides for an extensive interactive process between the physician and patient prior to the prescribing and self-administration of the medications. For example, the medication cannot be prescribed for a minimum of 15 days after the patient makes an initial request of his or her physician for the medications. Also, a fundamental element of the law is that the patient self-administers the medication.

Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a non-profit comprehensive regional health-care system in Seattle that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 440 physicians with a 336-bed acute-care hospital. Virginia Mason operates a network of clinics throughout the Puget Sound area; manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and Chronic Care Management program for people living with HIV and AIDS; and operates Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, internationally recognized in autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason is known for applying manufacturing principles to health care to improve quality and patient safety.

For media inquiries only, contact:
Alisha Mark
(206) 341-1509

Back to Search