Washington will become the second state to allow physician-assisted suicide, 10 years after Oregon became the first.
Initiative 1000 led in vote counts Tuesday night by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. The law will allow doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medicine to people who have been diagnosed as having six months or less to live.
"It is historic. The opponents of choice at the end of life have done all they could to prevent another state from passing a Death with Dignity Act," said Rob Miller, executive director of Compassion and Choices Washington. "To have it passed here in Washington is an incredible victory for patients' rights."
The group and its supporters nationwide donated $1 million to what became an emotional, $6.5 million battle over the measure sponsored by former Gov. Booth Gardner.
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Opponents fear the measure will lead people who are clinically depressed or impoverished to unnecessarily choose suicide.
"This is the beginning of a long, ongoing debate about end-of-life care, and hundreds of thousands of people expressed concerns about the initiative," said Chris Carlson, chairman of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
Legal challenges to the initiative are possible, he added.
Much of the political campaign focused on the Roman Catholic Church, which considers assisted suicide immoral. While the Yes on 1000 campaign repeatedly said the church would outspend it, Washington's campaign turned out to be the best-financed assisted-suicide measure ever.
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