OMC to take up 1-1000 tonight

When the Olympic Medical Center's board of commissioners meets tonight to vote on adopting Initiative 1000, or the "Death with Dignity" law, they probably will hear from both sides of the debate, although neither side is saying so explicitly.

Initiative 1000 appeared on the Nov. 4 general election as Death with Dignity, although opponents use the term "assisted suicide."

The law that hospital boards can adopt beginning March 4 allows competent, terminally ill adult residents of this state with six or fewer months to live who obtain signatures from two witnesses and two doctors to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that they can administer themselves.

It is copied from an Oregon law that has been on the books for 10 years.

Whether Olympic Medical Center will participate in the new law is the first item on the evening's agenda, with public comment limited to three minutes per person.

Gary Smith, executive pastor at Independent Bible Church, said, "It's likely there will be some folks there from various churches."

His church's leaders agreed that they disagree with the hospital board potentially adopting I-1000, Smith said.

"We encourage people to get involved because it's not just a political decision, there's a moral decision behind the politics.

"We know people can't get involved in everything, but this is pretty significant. We encourage people to speak to it and let the board know, let their voice be heard," he said.

Amber Wade, office manager for Compassion & Choices of Washington, says that group would not have anyone at the meeting.

The group was one of I-1000's major supporters during the campaign and promotes itself as a resource for those seeking to use the new law.

"We feel the voters have spoken. It was written into the law that hospitals could participate, and we hope they will," Wade said.

I-1000 was approved by the state voters with a 57.8-percent "yes" vote in the Nov. 4 general election.

In Clallam County, I-1000 was approved with a 60.7-percent "yes" vote. In the 31 precincts of Clallam County Commissioner District 2, the measure received 10,031 "yes" votes and 6,160 "no" votes, or 61.9 percent.

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act requires the Oregon Department of Human Services to collect information on compliance with the law and provide it to the public in an annual statistical report.

The Washington State Department of Health will gather that information through its existing Center for Health Statistics.

Decision tonight

What: Olympic Medical Center commissioners' meeting headed by public comment on whether the hospital should allow Death with Dignity decisions to be made in OMC facilities

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Linkletter Hall in the basement of OMC, 939 Caroline St., Port Angeles. Each person who wishes to address the commissioners will have three minutes to speak.

Brian Gawley can be reached at bgawley@sequim

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