Death with dignity in Washington patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES To describe the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients who sought medication under the Washington State Death with Dignity (DWD) Act since its inception in 2009. METHODS Chart review at 3 tertiary medical centers in the Seattle/Puget Sound region and comparison to publicly available data of ALS and all-cause DWD cohorts from Washington and Oregon. RESULTS In Washington State, 39 patients with ALS requested DWD from the University of Washington, Virginia Mason, and Swedish Medical Centers beginning in 2009. The median age at death was 65 years (range 46-86). Seventy-seven percent of the patients used the prescriptions. All of the patients who used the medications passed away without complications. The major reasons for patients to request DWD as reported by participating physicians were loss of autonomy and dignity and decrease in enjoyable activities. Inadequate pain control, financial cost, and loss of bodily control were less commonly indicated. These findings were similar to those of the 92 patients who sought DWD in Oregon. In Washington and Oregon, the percentage of patients with ALS seeking DWD is higher compared to the cancer DWD cohort. Furthermore, compared to the all-cause DWD cohort, patients with ALS are more likely to be non-Hispanic white, married, educated, enrolled in hospice, and to have died at home. CONCLUSIONS Although a small number, ALS represents the disease with the highest proportion of patients seeking to participate in DWD. Patients with ALS who choose DWD are well-educated and have access to palliative or life-prolonging care. The use of the medications appears to be able to achieve the patients' goals without complications.

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Cite this paper

@article{Wang2016DeathWD, title={Death with dignity in Washington patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.}, author={Leo H. Wang and Michael A. Elliott and Lily K Jung Henson and Elba Gerena-Maldonado and Susan Strom and Sharon Downing and Jennifer Vetrovs and Paige Kayihan and Piper Paul and Kate Kennedy and Joshua O. Benditt and Michael D. Weiss}, journal={Neurology}, year={2016}, volume={87 20}, pages={2117-2122} }