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Faith Leaders Urge Congress to Reject House-approved Rider to Repeal D.C. Medical Aid-in-Dying Law

Also Urge Members to Reject House Resolution Opposing Medical Aid in Dying Nationwide Photo: Kim Callinan, chief program officer, Compassion & Choices

Fifty-nine diverse faith leaders today delivered a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to “be merciful as your father in heaven is merciful” by rejecting current legislation to repeal D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law and opposing this end-of-life care option nationwide.

The letter signers are from D.C. and 23 states and collectively represent 14 faiths: Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Community of Christ, Episcopal, Interfaith, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist, Unitarian Universalist, and United Church of Christ. The letter is posted at: bit.ly/FaithLeadersMAID.

“…centuries ago rabbinic sages recognized the importance of granting mercy in the dying process,’” the faith leaders wrote. “The basic premise of medical aid in dying is simple and merciful: An adult of sound mind who faces imminent death should have the option to die peacefully. We represent a range of faith perspectives from across the nation and support a dying patient’s right to a peaceful death at the end of life.”

On Sept. 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill (H.R. 3354) that included an amendment by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (MD) to repeal the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, which authorizes medical aid in dying in the District of Columbia. On Sept. 26, Reps. Brad Wenstrup (OH) and Lou Correa (CA), along with eight other Members, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 80, erroneously claiming medical aid in dying undermines the integrity of the health care system.

“As children of God who comfort the terminally ill and their families, often at the dying person’s bedside, we have seen the suffering that can occur during our final days,” the letter concluded. “We believe God is a God of love and compassion, one who would not abandon a dying person who is suffering and refuse that person the means to die peacefully in whatever way is consistent with their own individual faith and beliefs.”

Medical aid in dying is an option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable in the District of Columbia and six states: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. There is no evidence of misuse with this end-of-life care option in the 40 years of combined experience in these seven jurisdictions.

Numerous polls show strong support for medical aid in dying among both U.S. physicians and Americans across the ethnic, political and religious spectrum.

“These leaders represent a wide range of faiths, and they have all reached the same conclusion: dying people should have the option to peacefully end their suffering if it is in line with their personal spiritual values,” said Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices. “We urge Congress to follow their example and continue allowing dying DC residents access to this humane end-of-life care option.”