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11 IN WASHINGTON END LIVES UNDER ASSISTED SUICIDE LAW

Associated Press

SEATTLE - Eleven people have used prescribed drugs to end their lives in the first six months after a Washington state law took effect allowing assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Five more people received life-ending drugs under the law, but died without using them, the group Compassion & Choices of Washington said.

The deaths amount to less than one-10th of 1 percent of all deaths statewide in 2008, indicating the law is being used carefully and sparingly, Robb Miller, the group's executive director, said at a news conference Tuesday.

The situation in Washington and Oregon, which adopted the nation's first "death with dignity" law in 1997, shows the deaths "have been safe, legal and rare," Miller said.

Eileen Geller, president of True Compassion Advocates, said she found the statistics chilling.

She called it a tragedy that Washington allows assisted suicide at the same time it's making deep cuts in health care.

"When society starts to tell people that are ill, elderly and disabled that their lives aren't worthy to live, they get the message," she said.

Washington and Oregon are the only two states with voter-approved assisted suicide laws.

In Montana, a court has ruled in an individual lawsuit that residents have a constitutionally protected right to physician-aided suicide, but the ruling is now before the state Supreme Court.

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