Terminally Ill VA Woman “Deeply Disappointed” State Legislature Fails to Pass Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill

Says She Will Have to Move to D.C. to Use Its Medical Aid-in-Dying Law, But Vows to Advocate for Gentle Dying Option for Terminally Ill Adults in Other States
January 26, 2023

A Falls Church woman with terminal pancreatic cancer expressed deep disappointment that the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee voted today 9-5 to uphold the Senate Subcommittee on Health Professions’ 5-4 vote last Friday to reject medical aid-in-dying legislation. Since the vote means the bill cannot pass in 2023 and she only has a prognosis of 2-5 months to live, she will continue making plans to move to Washington, D.C., to use its medical aid-in-dying law (i.e., D.C. Death With Dignity Act).

“I am deeply disappointed that Virginia lawmakers failed to provide this peaceful dying option to numerous terminally ill Virginians like me,” said Falls Church resident Barbara Green. “But I will spend the rest of my days in 2023 advocating for terminally ill adults in other states to have this option and continue my plans to move to D.C. Knowing medical aid in dying will be available to me gives me some sense of control over a very uncontrollable illness that has no cure and kills 95% of its victims fairly quickly.”

Barbara Green taking a selfie outside.

Falls Church resident Barbara Green

“Please don’t misunderstand me,” she said. “I love my life, children, grandchildren, and sister, take yoga classes, participate in volunteer activities and get chemotherapy treatments regularly. But once these treatments inevitably stop working, I don’t want to live with zero quality of life and die with needless suffering. Every terminally ill person should have the option of medical aid in dying, whether they decide to use it or not.”

Similar to medical aid-in-dying laws in Washington, D.C. and 10 states, the Virginia bill, Senate Bill 930, would have given mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the legal right to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they may decide to take to gently end unbearable suffering. Advocates vowed to fight for passage of medical aid-in-dying legislation in the 2024 legislative session.

“We are extremely grateful to Barbara Green for her brave, selfless advocacy and to Senate bill patron, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (Senate District 10/Chesterfield), for her leadership on this important, time-sensitive issue,” said Melissa Stacy, northeast regional advocacy manager for Compassion & Choices, which advocates for passing medical aid-in-dying laws in states nationwide. “We will not waiver in our commitment to pressure Virginia lawmakers to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation. The harsh reality is that most terminally ill Virginians don’t have the energy, proximity, resources, and time to move to D.C. and find new healthcare providers who offer this option. Tragically, every year the Legislature fails to pass this compassionate legislation means more terminally ill Virginians will die with needless suffering.”

Seven out of 10 Virginians (70%) support medical aid in dying, including a majority of state residents regardless of gender identity, age, political affiliation, religious affiliation (if any), race/ethnicity, region, and community size, according to a February 2022 Wason Center poll. In addition, on Oct. 27 the Virginia Medical Society dropped its opposition to medical aid in dying and adopted a position of engaged neutrality, so if the bill passes, the medical society will serve as a resource for accurate information and educate their members about the medical aid-in-dying law (see page 67 here).

Despite the wide availability of hospice, palliative care and pain management, national studies show that between 65 and 85 percent of patients with cancer (the most common disease among people who request medical aid in dying) experience breakthrough pain that can happen many times a day and is not controlled by regular doses of pain medicines.

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