Sponsor of Bill to Repeal D.C. Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Fails Fact Check Test

Video Analysis Shows Physician Congressman Made False Claims about D.C. Law
July 27, 2017

Kim Callinan, C&C Chief Program Officer

(Washington, D.C. – July 27, 2017) Supporters of D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act released a fact check video showing the sponsor of an amendment the House Appropriations Committee recently approved to repeal the D.C. law made numerous false claims about the law. The House Appropriations Committee voted 28-24 on July 13 to approve the amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (Md.). The law took effect on July 17 and will remain in effect only if supporters convince members of Congress not to include the amendment in the final federal spending bill for fiscal year 2018.

Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request and obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep. California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have 40 years of collective experience with medical aid-in-dying laws with no evidence of misuse.

“This video fact check shows that Dr. Harris does not understand how the D.C. Death with Dignity Act works. Either he didn’t read the law or he is deliberately fear mongering to generate support for his amendment to repeal it,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan.

The fact check video is posted at: bit.ly/RepHarrisFactCheck and the video transcript is posted at: bit.ly/RepHarrisTranscript. It corrects numerous false claims Dr. Harris made when he introduced his amendment on July 13 to invalidate the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. Below is a brief summary of the fact check video:

Harris falsely claimed medical aid in dying is “suicide” when the law text specifically states it doesn’t authorize suicide and the American Psychological Association says there are “profound psychological differences” between the two acts.

  • Harris falsely insinuates that 25 percent of people who request medical aid in dying are doing so because they are depressed but the law specifies no person diagnosed with “depression causing impaired judgment” can get a prescription.
  • Harris falsely claimed tourists can utilize the law by injecting the medication when only D.C. residents can utilize the law and the law prohibits injection of the medication, specifying the person must ingest it by themselves.
  • Harris falsely claimed the D.C. law is “worse” policy than other medical aid-in-dying laws when the D.C. Death with Dignity Act has the same core, dozen safeguards as the law it is modeled after, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

“Dr. Harris and his congressional allies are abusing the appropriations process to try to invalidate this law and prevent dying D.C. residents from making their own private end-of-life care decisions, in consultation with their family, their doctors and their faith leaders,” concluded Callinan. “We are counting on members of Congress, especially in the six states with medical aid-in-dying laws and the 26 states where such legislation has been introduced, to protect D.C. residents’ personal freedoms and strip this amendment from the appropriations bill.”

May Gallup poll shows nearly three out of four Americans (73%) support medical aid in dying, including 55 percent of weekly churchgoers and 60 percent of conservatives.

Medscape online survey last fall shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties nationwide support medical aid in dying by a 2-1 margin (57% to 29%).

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed The Death with Dignity Act in February, after the D.C. Council passed it in November by an 11-2 vote. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support the law.

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