Beyond Politics: The Growing Consensus on Medical Aid in Dying

March 29, 2024

At Compassion & Choices we believe death is not partisan, and the American public agrees with us! A national survey we commissioned from the bipartisan polling team of Goodwin Simon, with support from Susquehanna Research, revealed a striking consensus: A majority across the political spectrum — 67% of Republicans, 68% of Independents and 80% of Democrats — favors legalizing medical aid in dying.

Despite this broad support, the issue often becomes entangled in partisan politics, significantly influenced by the Catholic Church’s stance, which has led many Republican lawmakers to oppose end-of-life choices due to concerns over excommunication or financial backlash. However, the Church’s position diverges from the views of their parishioners: Two-thirds of Catholics (75%) support the legalization of medical aid in dying, as do Protestants (68%), including Evangelicals (65%) and those who are not religious (75%).

This widespread agreement among Americans of all political affiliations and religious beliefs highlights the dissonance between institutional doctrines and public opinion. Fortunately, amidst these challenges we are witnessing progress and possibility within our movement.

Recognition That Dying Isn’t Partisan 

Despite formidable odds, the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House has voted to pass medical aid in dying with the support of 36 Republicans! After the bill’s passage, there was even an attempt to reconsider the legislation that failed!  Kudos to the New Hampshire Alliance for End-of-Life Options for their leadership!

This victory underscores a broader trend that we’re witnessing nationwide: More Republican lawmakers are supporting medical aid in dying. These votes often come after they have personally experienced a loved one who has endured the inhumanity that prevails at life’s end, which suggests that over time, our support will continue to grow. A few noteworthy examples:

  • The Republican governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, signed two pieces of legislation to improve the state’s medical aid in dying law, one that reduced the waiting period and allowed for telemedicine to be used and a second that allowed out-of-state residents to access the law.

  • In Washington state, Republican Representative Skyler Rude (R-Walla Walla) was one of two chief sponsors of SB 5179, legislation to improve access to medical aid in dying by reducing the waiting period and allowing APRNs. SB 5179 passed both chambers of the Washington Legislature with bipartisan majorities and became law in March 2023.

  • In Montana, two Republican senators changed their vote during the third and final reading of SB210 (which we referred to as the “Physician Imprisonment Act”), resulting in Montana’s medical aid in dying law remaining intact.

While promising, it’s worth noting that we are still a long way from replicating this success in other Republican-controlled states. New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the country, and Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are sometimes Libertarians, who are among our strongest supporters. Undoubtedly the endorsement of the Libertarian Party in New Hampshire played a pivotal role in advancing this bill through the House. Let’s hope for similar success in the Republican-controlled Senate!

And an Amazing Victory in the Courts!

The opposition lawsuit challenging California’s medical aid-in-dying law, brought by United Spinal et al. against the state of California, was dismissed by United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha. This outcome marks a significant victory for us and other advocates of end-of-life choice, especially given Judge Aenlle-Rocha’s previous unfavorable rulings on medical aid in dying. His decision underscored the law’s stringent safeguards and strict eligibility criteria — limiting qualification to terminally ill people — as grounds for dismissal, refuting opposition claims that the 2022 update to the law discriminated against people with disabilities.

The dismissal, with prejudice, prevents the same claims from being refiled in the same court, offering a substantial win not only for terminally ill Californians but for the movement throughout the United States. This development is particularly impactful given the federal court’s jurisdiction, which could have led to nationwide implications had the lawsuit succeeded. The possibility of an appeal remains, and we are prepared for future challenges.

Together we’re crafting a legacy of compassion and choice, pivotal to envisioning life and death. This journey, fortified by our collective strength and unity, not only fills me with hope but bolsters my optimism because of your unwavering support. Your dedication lights our path and makes me confident in the brighter future we’re building together. Thank you.

P.S. As our Annual Fund drive unfolds, your support can ensure our progress continues. Contribute now, and your donation to Compassion & Choices will be matched until April 1, multiplying your impact on our enduring journey toward improved care and expanded options for life’s end.

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Compassion & Choices
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Sean Crowley
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Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
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(323) 819 0310

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