End-of-Life Group Urges Congress to Reject Legislation to Repeal D.C. Death with Dignity Act
(Washington, D.C. – June 14, 2018) Compassion & Choices urged Congress to reject a policy rider attached to a government funding bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee late Wednesday night that would repeal the D.C. Death with Dignity Act.
The policy rider is part of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019 that starts on Oct. 1, 2018 (see bill summary at bit.ly/HseAppBillSumm).
Similar to laws in seven states, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get prescription medication they can take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
Congressional opponents of medical aid in dying tried to repeal the law in February 2017 during a 30-legislative-day review period and during last year’s appropriations process, but they failed both times.
“Opponents of medical aid in dying should give up imposing their values on D.C. residents and focus on the issues impacting their constituents,” said Kim Callinan, CEO for Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. “Despite their efforts, the D.C. law remains in effect, and we are working closely with the D.C. Department of Health to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access the law.”
In addition to Washington, D.C., medical aid in dying has been authorized in seven states: Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California. However, the California law currently is facing a legal challenge based on a technicality. Collectively, these eight jurisdictions represent nearly one out of five Americans (19%) and have 40 years of combined experience safely using this end-of-life care option.
“Members of Congress from the seven states with medical aid-in-dying laws would be hypocrites if they supported this policy rider when their constituents have this end-of-life care option to peacefully end unbearable suffering,” said Callinan. “We cannot allow this federal power grab to succeed or it will spur efforts to try to ban medical aid-in-dying laws nationwide.”
The D.C. Council approved the Death with Dignity Act on Nov. 15, 2016, by a veto-proof 11–2 margin and the law went into effect on February 18, 2017. Polling shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support medical aid in dying.
A Medscape online survey shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties nationwide support medical aid in dying by nearly a 2–1 margin (57% to 29%).
National and state polls show a majority of Americans across the ethnic, political and religious spectrum support medical aid in dying. This majority includes African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, conservatives, Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents, liberals, moderates, Republicans/Republican-leaning independents, Catholics, Christians, Protestants, people of other faiths, and people living with disabilities.