Sequim woman to facilitate discussion on Death with Dignity Act

Compassion and Choices of Washington will present an evening of discussions about Washington's death with dignity act Aug. 17.

Dawna Zullo, a retired Army colonel, former Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy and Sequim resident, will lead the discussion.

Zullo said her 27 years in Army counter-espionage and her service with the sheriff's office saw many undignified and inhumane situations surrounding end of life issues.

"There has to be a way to exclude this kind of suffering," she said she remembers thinking.

Washington's Death with Dignity Act was passed in November 2008 and allows lethal doses of medication to be requested by adults determined to be terminally ill with less than six months to live.

Last year 63 prescriptions for the medication were filled but only 36 were used, Zullo said. Of the 36 used, 94 percent lived west of the Cascades and 21 percent lived on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Zullo said the discussions she hosts serve to educate people on the law and put misconceptions to rest.

The process to get the medication is detailed, she said. First the patient must be 18 years or older, deemed mentally competent, diagnosed as terminally ill with six months or less to live by two different doctors, and the patient must make two oral requests for the medication 15 days apart, she said.

"One thing we talk about is the law has decriminalized the act simply because these people do not have the choice of life," she said. "They have the choice of a good death or a bad death."

Opponents of the law call it assisted suicide and say doctors shouldn't be the agents of death.

Zullo said she doesn't mind having conversations with people opposing the law but the people in attendance normally are glad to have choices.

"The most common thing I hear (at the discussions) is 'My family begged me to help and I couldn't,'" she said. "'There was nothing I could do.'"

The discussion on Washington's Death with Dignity Act will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave. For more information, call Compassion and Choices of Washington at 877-222-2816.

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