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From the Wall Street Journal :

The physician-assisted suicide law that goes into effect today in Washington State allows hospitals and doctors to refuse to participate, creating a difficult decision for those who deal with end-of-life care.

Voters passed the measure last fall. There are lots of rules limiting when it can be invoked—a patient must be diagnosed as having less than six months to live, be of sound mind, make a request orally and in writing, have it approved by two different doctors, then wait 15 days and make the request again. A doctor can prescribe a lethal dose, but cannot administer it.

About a third of hospitals have said they will participate in the program, a third have said they will not participate, and a third are somewhere in between, the Seattle Times reports this morning.

Meanwhile, in Georgia :

Police arrested four members of a group called the Final Exit Network, which uses volunteers who are not physicians as “exit guides,” contending such efforts are necessary to help those who want to die but live in states where doctor-assisted suicide is illegal . . . . The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says the group may have helped 200 people around the nation commit suicide by sending exit guides to their homes to show them how to suffocate themselves using helium tanks and a plastic hood.

Some proponents of physician-assisted suicide see these news items as evidence of a “cultural shift” on this issue. Let’s hope not. I worry, however, that advocates for assisted suicide—and gay marriage for that matter—will try to advance their mission when a distracted public is looking the other way .



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