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‘Death with dignity,’ caregiver measures pass

OLYMPIA – Seventeen years after voting down an assisted-suicide proposal, Washington is poised to become the second state in America in which terminally ill people can get lethal prescriptions to hasten their deaths. Initiative 1000, the “death with dignity” measure, was leading late Tuesday night, 58 percent to 42 percent.

Across the border in Kootenai County, several tax proposals – some of which even proponents agreed were a long shot in a weak economy – were failing miserably.

Washingtonians were also strongly rejecting a controversial transportation proposal from initiative pitchman Tim Eyman and overwhelmingly passing a union-backed measure to require more paid training for home health aides.

By far the most expensive and closest-watched of the measures was Washington’s Initiative 1000, a $7 million campaign pitting foes of assisted suicide against proponents of “death with dignity.” Proponents said that suffering people deserve a chance to control their own deaths; opponents said the law is a step down the path toward euthanasia for the sick and disabled.

The measure, championed by former Gov. Booth Gardner, would allow patients to ask doctors for a lethal prescription. A similar law has been in effect in Oregon for more than a decade. “It appears that the voters of the state of Washington have, unfortunately, started down a path that I believe with historical hindsight they’ll come to regret,” said Chris Carlson, a Spokane man who helped oppose the measure.

“We feel like the voters of Washington have agreed to give terminally ill and their families the dignity that they’ve asked for,” said Anne Martens, a spokeswoman for Yes on 1000.

Washington’s I-985, meanwhile, appeared headed for defeat, 60 percent to 40 percent. Filed by Eyman, it would have opened highway car pool lanes to all vehicles during off-peak hours and diverted money from the state treasury into anti-congestion projects. But critics called the proposal a bad deal for state services, and a particularly bad deal for Eastern Washington, since the worst congestion is around Seattle.

In Kootenai County, two ballot measures to pay for a $147 million jail expansion were failing. The measures would have increased property taxes to pay for the construction, then upped the sales tax by half a cent for 10 years to offset the property tax increase.

A third Kootenai County measure, to boost vehicle registration fees by $24 for the next two decades, also seemed headed for defeat. The money would have been spent on highway construction, repairs and maintenance in the county. Washington’s I-1029 seemed headed to an easy victory Tuesday night, 75 percent to 25 percent. The union-backed measure would require more paid training for home health aides.