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D.C. Death with Dignity Act Advocates Meet with D.C. Council Members, Urge Support for Legislation

Council Health and Human Services Committee Set to Vote on Bill on Oct. 5

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Sean Crowley, 202.495.8520, [email protected]

(Washington, D.C. – Sept. 22, 2016) Advocates for the D.C. Death with Dignity Act today met with D.C. Council members to

Bishop Gene Robinson, Washington, D.C. resident

Bishop Gene Robinson, Washington, D.C. resident.

urge them to support the bill in advance of an Oct. 5 vote on it by the Council’s Health and Human Service Committee.

The bill would give terminally ill adults the additional end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying. It would enable them to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they could take to die peacefully in their sleep to stop unbearable suffering. If the Health and Human Service Committee approves the bill on Oct. 5, the full Council will vote on it before the end of the year.

“Aid in dying is one in a range of choices people facing an imminent death can make,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh (3rd ward), a Health and Human Services Committee member who authored the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, during a news conference with bill supporters on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building today.

Two out of three (67%) of DC residents support the right of terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to legally obtain medication to end their lives, according to a July 2015 Lake Research poll.

Dr. Omega Silva, a D.C.-based physician living with cancer and former president of the American Medical Women’s Association, which supports medical aid in dying, spoke at the news conference. She said aid in dying is “consistent with the Hippocratic Oath,” adding the oath means simply that doctors must “do what is right for the patient.”

A growing number of national organizations representing healthcare professionals have endorsed or taken a neutral position on medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults. In addition to the American Medical Women’s Association, they include the American Medical Student Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of Legal Medicine, and American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine.

Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five states with a combined 30+ years of experience with this end of life option: Oregon (1998), Washington (2009), Montana (2010), Vermont (2013) and California (June 2016). There is not a single documented case of abuse or coercion involving the practice in these five states.

“It remains beyond me why we can’t allow mentally capable adults this option when death is a certainty, why we can’t let them go gracefully, with dignity, and peace,” said Michael Kaplan, President & CEO of the Melanoma Research Alliance, who has lived with AIDS since 1992 and Type 1 diabetes since 1980 and is the husband of the late TV reality star Sean Sasser, who was an HIV activist. “I am angry that we did not have more options at a time when Sean was ready to be out of pain and done. I implore the D.C. Council and Mayor Bowser – please, please, pass the D.C. Death and Dignity Act – and allow others the options my husband and so many others have wanted.”

“The option does not result in more people dying; it results in fewer people suffering,” said Dan Diaz, husband of the late Brittany Maynard. He and his wife had to move from their home in California to Oregon so she could utilize its death-with-dignity law. Diaz said that having the medication did not change Brittany’s ability to fight her brain cancer. “In fact,” said Diaz, “it provided Brittany with more confidence to fight because she didn’t have to be so terrified with how her final few days might play out.”

“As someone who has lived with MS for fifteen years, I always make it very clear that aid-in-dying laws really have nothing to do with people living with disabilities,” said Compassion & Choices Political Director Charmaine Manansala. “Having limited physical mobility, being dependent on others for care or requiring daily care does not qualify a person for medical aid in dying. It is only for people who are imminently dying, and suffering unbearably in the process.”