Washington State Outlaws Death Penalty For Killers. But Doctors Can Legally Help Patients Kill Themselves

Grace Carr | Reporter

Washington State’s Supreme Court banned the death penalty Thursday in a move that could affect prison cost and capacity in the state.

“Today’s decision by the state Supreme Court thankfully ends the death penalty in Washington,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an ‘arbitrary and racially biased manner,’ is ‘unequally applied’ and serves no criminal justice goal.”

“This is a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice,” Inslee’s statement concluded. (RELATED: Supreme Court Rejects Attempt To End The Death Penalty)

While the state of Washington now outlaws the death penalty for criminals, it passed the Death With Dignity Act in 2008 allowing terminally ill patients to ask for lethal medication to kill themselves. Since the law took effect, 651 terminally patients have died using lethal prescription medication, according to the website Deal With Dignity.

Washington law stipulates that doctors can only assist a patient in dying if they are 18 years or older and have no more than six months to live in the opinion of a medical professional. The physician must also inform the patient of other options before administering a lethal prescription. (RELATED: Massachusetts Might Legalize Assisted Suicide, And It Could Turn America Into The Netherlands)

California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Montana and Washington, D.C. permit physician-assisted suicide.

Washington is the twentieth state to outlaw the death penalty: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, ban the death penalty.

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