Compassion & Choices today launched a bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill D.C. residents, their families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of D.C.’s new medical aid-in-dying law that took effect yesterday (Monday, July 17). The mayor’s announcement came four days after the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would invalidate the D.C. law if Congress passes the amendment and President Trump signs it into law, but for now the law remains in effect.
D.C. and six other states representing 18 percent of the nation now authorize medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering by dying peacefully in their sleep.
“The congressional threat to repeal D.C.’s law will not impact our commitment to partner with the D.C. Department of Health in a bilingual campaign to help D.C. residents access this law and to teach healthcare providers about the practice of medical aid in dying,” said Kat West, National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion & Choices. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that terminally ill adults in D.C. can access this end-of-life care option to end intolerable suffering, just as we have done in every other jurisdiction with a medical aid-in-dying law.”
“I cannot tell you how relieved I am that Mayor Bowser is promptly implementing this law,” said D.C. resident Mary Klein, who wants the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end her suffering from terminal ovarian cancer. “I do not know if I will use this option, but knowing I have it gives me an enormous sense of relief. I urge Congress not to repeal the law because it would devastating to terminally ill D.C. residents like me who want this option.”
The D.C. Council passed D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, by a veto-proof 11-2 margin on Nov. 15, 2016. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support the law. A May Gallup poll shows nearly three out of four Americans (73%) support medical aid in dying, including 55 percent of weekly churchgoers and 60 percent of conservatives. 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%).
As part of its D.C. Access Campaign, Compassion & Choices will provide education and technical assistance to doctors, healthcare providers and terminally ill adults about all the end-of-life care options to relieve intolerable suffering, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying. Information is available in English and Spanish.
Terminally ill D.C. residents, their families, physicians and pharmacists can get information about the law by visiting: compassionandchoices.org/
“It is very important for doctors to understand how to respond to a terminally ill person’s request for medical aid in dying,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices, who has written aid-in-dying prescriptions authorized by Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act that is the model for D.C.’s laws. “The doctor’s response should include assessing the patient’s mental capability to make an informed decision, reviewing the patient’s previous treatment, and offering alternatives to medical aid in dying, such as hospice and palliative care.”