Tie Vote Prevents Virginia Senate Committee from Passing Death with Dignity Bill

Bill Advocates Vow to Continue to Fight, Urge House of Delegates to Pass Bill
February 3, 2022

In a tie vote, the Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health today failed to advance a bill that would give 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 peacefully end unbearable suffering

After hearing testimony from Virginians whose loved ones or patients suffered without this peaceful dying option, the committee voted 7-7 with one abstention not to advance the Death with Dignity Act (SB 668), sponsored by committee member Senator Ghazala Hashmi (Senate District 10/Richmond). 

Bill advocates vowed to continue the grassroots campaign to pass the companion bill in the House of Delegates, the Virginia Compassion and Choices Act (HB 1095), sponsored by Delegate Kaye Kory (House District 38/Falls Church)

Washington, D.C. and 10 states allow medical aid in dying, but Virginia currently does not. 

“We’re disappointed in that the committee did not advance this urgent bill, but a tie vote the first time the committee considered the bill bodes well for the future. We will continue this fight to give terminally ill Virginians the option to gently end intolerable suffering at the end of life,” said Melissa Stacy, Virginia campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “We know from experience in the 11 other jurisdictions where medical aid in dying is authorized that it takes time to educate lawmakers who are unfamiliar with this legislation, and since polling shows Virginians strongly support it, we know we will eventually prevail. Thank you to Senator Ghazala Hashmi for her leadership on this important issue.”

Seven out of ten Virginians (70%) support medical aid-in-dying, including a majority of state residents regardless of age, education, gender identity, political affiliation or religion (if any), according to a November 2020 Wason Center poll

Kate Vasiloff and her father George

Kate Vasiloff and her father George

“I was looking into the eyes of my best friend and he was terrified of what the last six months of his life would look like,” testified Arlington resident Kate Vasiloff recalling how her dad, George Vasiloff, a Marine Corp veteran, suffered from ALS. “Terminal illnesses already rob people of their ability to live the lives they want with the people they love; medical aid in dying gives them an ounce of control when everything else has been taken away and all but suffering remains.”

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 is not controlled by regular doses of pain medicines and can happen many times a day.

“As a patient, imagine being told your cancer is now ‘terminal,’ nothing more can be done and you have a very short time to live-maybe days or weeks,” Dr. Angela Herring, a retired family physician in Newport who cared for patients with terminal illnesses. “Your need for pain medicine is getting more frequent and the amount of relief less. If it gets much worse you are not sure how you will be able to stand it. If this bill becomes law in Virginia,  you will be able to request a prescription, to take to die peacefully, if you choose, should your suffering become unbearable. Just having medical aid in dying as an option relieves fear and anxiety-even for those who have a prescription and choose not to use it.”

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