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Washington legislature forwards end-of-life bill to the governor

Tom Banse/Northwest News Network

The legislation makes changes to the state's 14-year-old Death with Dignity Act

Washington was one of the first states to allow doctors to provide terminally-ill patients with drugs they could take to end their lives. Supporters say the law needs an update to make it less burdensome for those patients to carry out their wishes.

The bill allows life-ending drugs to be mailed to patients using certified mail or delivery courier. It allows a patient to receive drugs quicker after requesting them, the waiting period shortened from 15 days to seven. And, says one of the bill’s main sponsors, Walla Walla Republican Skyler Rude, it adds physician assistants and nurse practitioners to the list of medical professionals who can prescribe life-ending drugs.

“Many primary care providers are not physicians. Mine is a nurse practitioner and if I was in a position where I was terminally ill, qualified to use the law, I would want my primary care provider, who’s been with me and understands my needs and my health to be one of those providers. So I think that’s a really important change," he said during debate on the House floor last week.

The Democrat-led House approved the bill by a mostly party line (53-43) vote. Spokane Valley Republican Leonard Christian was one of the nos.

“What we’re doing here was approved by the voters and I understand it. But the voters were very clear to put up some guidelines, some guardrails, and it seems like we’re moving these guardrails. This is a final decision. It’s not like you’re buying a car. It’s a final decision," he said.

The Senate also approved the bill on a mostly party line vote (28-20). It now goes to the governor.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.