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State of Washington 'Death with Dignity' Act Goes Into Effect Thursday

A new "Death with Dignity" law goes into effect in the state of Washington on Thursday, allowing doctors in the state to prescribe lethal levels of medication for certain patients who have received a terminal prognosis and been given six months or less to live.

Physicians and health care facilities in the state may choose not to provide services under the Washington 'Death with Dignity' Act, which was approved by voters last November. And as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, at least two major hospitals in the state have already announced that they will not provide treatment under the new law.

The new Washington 'Death with Dignity' Act closely mirrors Oregon's version of the law, which has been on that state's books since 1994. A 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld Oregon's assisted-suicide law, and declared that states have the authority to regulate health care, including the legality of controversial practices like physician-assisted suicide. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 36 states have specifically criminalized assisted suicide, while courts in six more states and the District of Columbia have issued rulings that effectively outlaw the practice.

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