(Washington, D.C. – Sept. 14, 2017) Supporters of D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act criticized the U.S. House of Representatives today for passing the 2018 D.C. Appropriations bill with a rider to repeal the District’s medical-aid-in-dying law.
Similar to laws in six states, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
“Congress should be focusing on pressing national issues, like helping Florida residents recover from Hurricane Irma, instead of taking away the legal rights of terminally ill adults like me who just want the option to end intolerable suffering,” said D.C. resident Mary Klein, who has terminal ovarian cancer and wants the ability to choose medical aid in dying to peacefully end her suffering if it becomes intolerable. “I am counting on cooler heads to prevail in the Senate, so terminally ill D.C. residents like me won’t be forced to suffer needlessly at the end of our lives.”
The states that have authorized medical aid in dying include California, Vermont (via legislation in 2015 and 2013), Colorado, Oregon, Washington State (via ballot initiatives in 2016, 1998 and 2008) and Montana (via a Montana Supreme Court ruling in 2009). Collectively, these states represent 18 percent of Americans and have 40 years of combined experience with no misuse of this medical practice.
“Congress should stop using the District of Columbia as its personal science experiment,” said Anthony Hinojosa, senior political & federal associate for Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act and similar laws in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. “We are counting on senators from the six states that also have authorized this time-tested medical practice to insist that this amendment be excluded from any final spending bill or continuing resolution to fund the government.”
Congressional opponents of the D.C. Death with Dignity Act had a chance to repeal the law during a 30 legislative day review period before it became law on Feb. 18, but failed to do so.
Two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support medical aid in dying, according to a 2015 Lake Research poll.
National and state polls show a majority of Americans across the ethnic, political and religious spectrum support medical aid in dying. This majority includes African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, conservatives, Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents, liberals, moderates, Republicans/Republican-leaning independents, Catholics, Christians, Protestants, people of other faiths, people living with disabilities, and physicians.
A 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%).