Governor signs modernization of Washington’s Death with Dignity Act into law

Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5179 to update Washington state’s Death with Dignity law.

Rep. Skyler Rude introduced House Bill 1281, which reflects a four-year effort led by Rude to update Washington’s Death with Dignity Act. Senate Bill 5179, the vehicle of this policy, was signed into law on April 7, 2023.

“This bill directly responds to 16th District constituent experiences,” said Rude, R-Walla Walla. “I want to thank Donna Coffeen for bringing her family’s experience on this issue forward.”

“Everyone should have the right to face death on their own terms,” said Coffeen. “These changes are a huge step in the right direction.”  

The Washington state Death with Dignity Act was passed by voters through the initiative process in 2008 with support from 30 of 39 counties, including Walla Walla County. When voters approved this law, Washington became only the second state in the nation to allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to request a lethal prescription from their doctor.

Since the law took effect, there have been many Washingtonians who, while eligible to use the law, have been unable to due to waiting periods and lack of provider access.

Senate Bill 5179 seeks to modernize a few areas of the law that are not working for certain patients. While the bill does not expand who is eligible, it removes some of the most burdensome barriers that leave too many terminally ill patients to suffer without the peace of mind the law intended to give them.

This bill seeks to improve access to existing law by:

  • Allowing prescription mail delivery (with delivery safeguards).
  • Reduces the waiting period from 15 days to 7 days
  • Expands the list of practitioners allowed to participate in the law 
  • Requires the Department of Health to post hospitals’ and hospices’ policies online.

“As a result of this bill, patients who qualify to use this law will more easily be able to access local providers and prescriptions. It requires more transparency in which end-of-life policies are offered at health care facilities and shortens the waiting period to obtain these prescriptions,” continued Rude. “The bill maintains important safeguards to ensure the law is not misused.”

Senate Bill 5179 will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the 2023 session.


Washington State House Republican Communications