Compassion & Choices thanked the Senate for rejecting a policy rider today attached to a government funding bill approved on July 19 by the U.S. House of Representatives, which would repeal the D.C. Death with Dignity Act.
The policy rider was part of the House-approved version of the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 6147) for fiscal year 2019 that starts on Oct. 1, 2018. However, the Senate version of the bill excluded the policy rider.
Similar to laws in seven 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 unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
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.
“We thank senators for honoring the tradition of rejecting unrelated policy riders to spending bill and respecting the autonomy of the D.C. government to make laws for its constituents,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act. “The D.C. law remains in effect and we urge conference committee members to keep unrelated D.C. policy riders out of the final legislation.”
In addition to Washington, D.C., medical aid in dying has been authorized in seven states: Colorado, Hawai’i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California. Collectively, these eight jurisdictions represent nearly one out of five Americans (19%) and have 40 years of combined experience safely using this end-of-life care option.
“This law comforts terminally ill D.C. residents by giving them the option to stop unbearable suffering at life’s inevitable end, so they can die peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones,” said Callinan. “It would be cruel to rob terminally ill D.C. residents of this compassionate end-of-life option that is authorized in seven states representing nearly one out of five Americans.”
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. A 2015 Lake Research poll shows two-thirds of D.C. residents (67%) support medical aid in dying.
A 2016 Medscape online survey shows 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties support medical aid in dying by nearly a 2–1 margin (57% to 29%).
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, and people living with disabilities.