A policy rider to a government funding bill approved by a House Subcommittee today would repeal D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act. The House Financial Services Subcommittee today approved the policy rider as part of the fiscal year 2019 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill after an impassioned debate.
Similar to laws in six states, 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 their lives.
Congressional conservatives argue that the law should be repealed because it is in conflict with anti-suicide statutes and may leave vulnerable patients at the mercy of doctors and relatives who wish to hasten their demise. Others think that creating an open season on assisted suicide will create an entire marketplace for the service.
“I worry that assisted suicide will create a marketplace for death,” Chaffetz said.
It already has.
Compassion & Choices, the oldest, largest and most active nonprofit working to improve care and expand options for the end of life in the United States, urged Congress to reject the policy rider citing multiple failed attempts to repeal the law and public sentiment about assisted suicide.
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.
“It’s time for opponents of medical aid in dying to recognize that this issue has been debated and decided,” said Kim Callinan, CEO for Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. “The important news for D.C. residents is the law remains in effect, and we are working collaboratively with the D.C. Department of Health to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access the law.”
Medical aid in dying has been practiced safely with no evidence of misuse for more than 40 combined years in six states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Hawaii.
“Members of Congress from these states would be hypocrites if they supported this policy rider when their own constituents have this palliative care option to peacefully end unbearable suffering,” said Callinan. “If this federal power grab succeeds, it will set a dangerous precedent that could embolden congressional 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.