Faced with a terminal diagnosis, Americans should have the full range of medically appropriate options for care at the end of life.
Compassion & Choices’ Federal Relations team works in the halls of Congress and federal agencies on the ground in Washington, D.C. to protect medical aid-in-dying laws and educate members of Congress and federal policymakers about all end-of-life care options. This work is critical to ensuring that terminally ill people have a full range of options at the end of life across the country.
Working to combat the Patient Rights Act (S. 1993):
On June 26, 2019, Senators Kevin Cramer (ND), Steve Daines (MT), and Marsha Blackburn (TN) introduced the Patient Rights Act (S.1993). This bill would withhold federal funding (including Medicaid and Medicare) from any healthcare entity that honors a healthcare decision that intentionally shortens or ends life, even if that is the patient’s clearly stated preference, including discontinuing life support and medical aid in dying.
This so-called “Patient Rights Act” also encourages pro-life zealots to report any doctor or health care system they suspect of not meeting broad, strict mandates for life-sustaining treatment to the Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights. This office must investigate all reported violations. If enacted into law, patients in every state will lose precious autonomy and dignity at life’s end, because virtually no healthcare facility is able to operate without federal funding.
Opposing the Federal Conscience Rule:
In May 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services released their final so-called “conscience rule.” This new HHS rule allows any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care – from a hospital’s board of directors to the receptionist that schedules procedures – to put their personal beliefs ahead of a patient’s health and values. Compassion & Choices submitted comments opposing the rule. We are mobilizing our supporters and working with partner organizations to fight it. Read more about our opposition here.
More than 3,300 individuals who support patient autonomy to make their own healthcare decisions at the end of life signed our petition to oppose the rule. Thankfully, multiple filed lawsuits by various opponents of this rule have prevented HHS from implementing it. We will continue to monitor the status of these lawsuits.
Monitoring Attempts to Defund D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act:
Every year, the president presents a federal budget to Congress for its consideration. President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 includes a policy rider to defund and repeal D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act. The law gives terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to peacefully end unbearable suffering through doctor-prescribed, aid-in-dying medication. While we’ve faced a similar policy riders during congressional appropriations, this is the first time the president of the United States has included a policy rider of this kind.
Repealing D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act would embolden opponents of medical aid in dying to consider seeking a nationwide ban on the practice. Such a ban would reverse all of our 25 years of progress eliminate the option of medical aid in dying for 22% of the U.S. population that now has it. That’s why Compassion & Choices is working tirelessly to protect D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act. We work closely with members of Congress and organizations that support D.C.’s autonomy to ensure that the law remains intact. We also mobilized our supporters to sign a petition to tell Congress to reject the policy rider.
On June 21, 2019, U.S. Representative Ann Wagner (Missouri) introduced an amendment to House Resolution 3351 – Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2020. This amendment would have prohibited the use of federal funds to implement D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act (D.C. Law 21-182).
The House Rules Committee ruled the amendment was out of order to be attached to the bill. As a result, the full U.S. House of Representatives passed a clean bill — without this harmful amendment — by a vote of 224-196 on June 26, 2019. Compassion & Choices will continue to monitor the Senate to ensure we block potential, similar amendments to the Financial Services and General Government Bill.
In the 115th Congress, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (OH) and Rep. Lou Correa (CA) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 80 to condemn the legalization of “assisted suicide” (opponents pejorative term for medical aid in dying). Fortunately, the concurrent resolution expired when Congress adjourned their session on Dec. 31, 2018. A concurrent resolution is a resolution adopted by both houses of a legislative assembly that does not require the signature of the chief executive and that does not have the force of law. While the resolution has not yet been introduced in the 116th Congress, Compassion & Choices will continue to monitor Congress for the possible introduction of similar legislation.