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Senate Appropriations Committee Praised for Leaving D.C. Death with Dignity Act Intact

(June 22, 2018) Compassion & Choices praised the Senate Appropriations Committee for approving a government funding bill on Thursday afternoon without a policy rider approved by the House Appropriations Committee last week that would repeal the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. However, the bill text was not posted online until this morning.

The House policy rider is part of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019 that starts on Oct. 1, 2018 (see bill summary at bit.ly/HseAppBillSumm). The Senate version of the same bill (S.3107) approved by Senate Appropriations Committee excluded the House policy rider (see bill text at bit.ly/SenAppBill).

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.

Kim Callinan, CEO, Compassion & Choices

“We thank the entire Senate Appropriations Committee for recognizing the autonomy of D.C. lawmakers and their constituents who support medical aid in dying by an overwhelming margin,” said Kim Callinan, CEO for Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. “We cannot allow this power grab to succeed or it will encourage our 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.

In addition to the District of Columbia, medical aid in dying has been authorized in seven states: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. 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.

“Public opinion is strongly on our side,” said Callinan. “We ask Members of Congress from the seven states that have authorized medical aid in dying to make sure that DC residents are allowed to access the same peaceful end-of-life care option that is available to their constituents.”

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.


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