Virginia Senate Committee to Hold 1st Hearing Ever on Death with Dignity Bill Thursday

Bill Authors, Virginian with Incurable Cancer, End-of-Life Care Advocacy Group Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bill
February 2, 2022

One day before the first hearing ever on Virginia’s Death with Dignity Act Thursday by the Senate Committee on Education and Health, the bill authors, a Virginian with incurable cancer and the end-of-life care advocacy group Compassion & Choices held a Zoom news conference to urge the Legislature to pass the bill. (Journalists can obtain a video recording and transcript of the news conference by contacting [email protected].) 

The Virginia Death with Dignity Act 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. Washington, D.C. and 10 states allow medical aid in dying, including Oregon, but Virginia currently does not. 

Richard Morgan

“My disease is incurable,” said Richard Morgan, a retired commercial and military pilot in Charlottesville with metastatic prostate cancer. “When metastatic prostate cancer spreads to your bones it can become a slow painful death…I have a daughter who lives in Oregon and could move there to access medical aid in dying, but I don’t want to leave the state I love in order to determine the timing of my own death. Please pass medical aid in dying in Virginia and give me the option to end my life at home.”

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.

This is the first year that a medical aid-in-dying bill will be presented in the Virginia Senate (SB 668) by Senator Ghazala Hashmi (Senate District 10/Richmond), a member of the Senate Education and Health Committee, and presented in the House of Delegates as the Virginia Compassion and Choices Act (HB 1095) by Delegate Kaye Kory (House District 38/Falls Church), chair of the Virginia Disability Commission and Joint Commission on Health Care.

“Every one of us I’m sure…has a personal story about a relative or a friend that could have been spared, intense suffering and pain by having this choice available to them,” said Delegate Kory, who first introduced the Virginia Death with Dignity Act in 2019.”It’s not about directing anyone to behave differently at the end of their life than they would choose to do…I believe that every American deserves the option about determining not just their healthcare, but the way they die, as much as they possibly can.”

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

“…we have a robust and growing body of support,” said Senator Ghazala Hashmi (Senate District 10/Richmond). “And I think it’s because we’ve demystified the process and some of the awareness and understanding around what this legislation seeks to do…the real focus is on compassion…Compassion for folks who are confronting the reality of a terminal illness, compassion for the pain that they are physically suffering…it really is a fundamentally human decision, regardless of one’s faith or background.” 

“Your zip code should not dictate whether you die peacefully or painfully,” said Charmaine Manansala, chief advocacy officer for Compassion & Choices. “As a former resident of Alexandria and a person living with a disability, I hope that Virginia will authorize medical aid in dying. Now, as a Colorado resident, I’ll have the option if ever I qualify and would like to utilize it…there are mentally capable, terminally ill adults that currently live in Virginia who would like to access medical aid in dying, but currently can’t, simply because of where they live. And that’s why we must pass medical aid-in-dying legislation in Virginia.”

Compassion & Choices
Media Contacts

Sean Crowley
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[email protected]

Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
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(323) 819 0310

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