Group Urges Congress to Reject Legislation to Repeal D.C. Death with Dignity Act

May 24, 2018
Kim Callinan

Kim Callinan, CEO

Compassion & Choices urged Congress to reject a policy rider to a government funding bill approved by a House Subcommittee today that would repeal D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act (see policy rider on page 165). The House Financial Services Subcommittee today approved the policy rider as part of the fiscal year 2019 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill.

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.

“It’s time for opponents of medical aid in dying to recognize that this issue has been debated and decided,” said Kim Callinan, CEO for Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. “The important news for D.C. residents is the law remains in effect, and we are working collaboratively with the D.C. Department of Health to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access the law.”

Medical aid in dying has been practiced safely with no evidence of misuse for more than 40 combined years in seven states representing nearly one-fifth (19%) of the nation’s population: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Hawaii.

“Members of Congress from these states would be hypocrites if they supported this policy rider when their own constituents have this palliative care option to peacefully end unbearable suffering,” said Callinan. “If this federal power grab succeeds, it will set a dangerous precedent that could embolden congressional opponents to try to ban medical aid in dying 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.

Medscape online survey shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties nationwide support medical aid in dying by 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.

Compassion & Choices
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