SEATTLE, March 5, 2009 – The recent passage of Initiative 1000 (I-1000), the ‘Washington State Death with Dignity Act,’ has raised many questions for physicians, pharmacists, counselors and hospitals statewide. After careful, thoughtful conversations with our medical staff and physician leadership, pharmacy staff, home care and hospice staff, senior leaders, Ethics Committee and the Board of Trustees, Swedish has chosen to not participate as a provider under the ‘Washington State Death with Dignity Act.’
Swedish believes that its three acute-care hospitals are not the appropriate setting for patients who are at the stage of taking life-ending medications and that the processes necessary to meet the requirements of I-1000 are inconsistent with our focus on high-quality acute and tertiary care services.
Swedish recognizes and respects the right of patients to make choices related to their care at the end of life. Swedish will continue to provide compassionate, high-quality care to all our patients regardless of their participation or non-participation with this initiative. Referrals to other community providers will be made if requested by a patient whose needs cannot be met within Swedish. Swedish pharmacies will not fill prescriptions for life-ending medications, but will assist patients in finding participating community pharmacies. Patients will be accepted into the Swedish Home Care and Hospice Programs without regard to their decisions and plans under I-1000. However, Swedish staff will not be present when a patient self administers life-ending medication.
Swedish recognizes and respects the right of any health-care provider to counsel patients on their options and to participate, if they so choose, in activities under I-1000. Swedish also recognizes and respects the right of any health-care provider to decline to participate in activities specific to I-1000.
All practitioners at Swedish will respond to any patient’s query about life-ending medication with openness and compassion. Swedish believes our practitioners have an obligation to openly discuss a patient’s concerns, unmet needs, feelings, desires about the dying process, and options available. Swedish is committed to improving end-of-life care for patients, including assuring access to effective pain and symptom management, and expanding access to hospice and palliative care.
Physicians on Swedish’s medical staff will make an individual decision to participate or not participate under I-1000, either as an attending physician or a consulting physician, as those terms are defined in the Act.
Brochures and other educational materials specific to patient rights under I-1000 will be available to patients who request such materials and will include a list of I-1000 resources for use by patients and Swedish’s care-management team.