Aging Matters: Two ballot measures

I-1000 and I-1029 don’t apply exclusively to the aging, but that’s where most of their impact would be felt.

I-1000 and I-1029 don’t apply exclusively to the aging, but that’s where most of their impact would be felt.

Initiative 1000 is called “Death With Dignity” by its supporters and the “Assisted Suicide” Initiative by its opponents. It allows a lethal prescription to be provided at a patient’s request, subject to requirements (see The patient must:

– Be an adult (18 or over) resident of Washington state

– Be mentally competent, verified by two physicians (or referred to a mental health evaluation)

– Be terminally ill with less than six months to live, verified by two physicians

– Make voluntary requests, without coercion, verified by two physicians

– Be informed of all other options including palliative and hospice care

– Wait for a 15-day period between the first oral request and a written request

– Wait for 48 hours between the written request and the writing of the prescription.

The written request must be signed by two independent witnesses, at least one of whom is not related to the patient or employed by the health care facility. The patient is encouraged to discuss this with family. The patient may change their mind at any time and rescind the request. Among opponents’claims, the objections that stand out are: First, that one of the witnesses could be a relative (and beneficiary) of the patient; and second, that physicians, motivated to reduce health care costs, might encourage the indigent and the disabled to take the lethal dose.

I’m carefully reading the entire text of I-1000, and not dwelling on pro and con arguments. If you know you’re opposed to the measure on ethical grounds, good for you! I haven’t quite decided, though I’ve seen enough end-of-life trauma to lean toward voting in favor.

I think the second initiative, I-1029, is straightforward. It would “require long-term care workers to be certified as home-care aides based on an examination, with exceptions; increase training and criminal background check requirements; and establish disciplinary standards and procedures.”

The measure would be burdensome for boarding homes and in-home caregivers. Abuses exist, but creating new infrastructure requirements will create an added cost burden for facilities and caregivers without addressing abuses. A resource for checking a boarding home’s quality of caregiving is the Kitsap County DSHS ombudsman for long-term care, Gail Helseth-Kennison, at (360) 337-5714. I’ll be voting against I-1029.