Supporters of D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law urged lawmakers in six states with such laws to oppose an amendment to the annual federal government funding bill that would block funding to implement the D.C. law and repeal it. The House Appropriations Committee voted late Thursday night to approve the amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (Md.) in a 28 to 24 vote.
Medical aid-in-dying laws give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have 40 years of collective experience with medical aid-in-dying laws with no evidence of misuse. These six states represent 18 percent of the nation’s population and have 12 U.S. senators and 77 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).
“We call upon lawmakers in the six states with medical aid-in-dying laws to use their power to ensure this repeal amendment to take away the personal freedom of people to make their own healthcare decisions – without government interference – is stripped from the federal government funding bill,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan. “House leaders McCarthy and McMorris, in particular, should know their constituents would frown on this personal liberty violation that would spur opponents of this healthcare option to pursue a nationwide ban.”
“This attempt to repeal the law is an abuse of power,” added Callinan. “Congress had a chance to repeal the law in February during the congressional review period, but it failed. Rep. Harris is now misusing the appropriations process to do what opponents of medical aid in dying could not openly do before. This end run is shameful, it’s wrong and now D.C. residents who are dying are being deprived of the peace of mind that this law brings.”
“The House Appropriations Committee voted to impose their will and beliefs on me and take away the most personal of decisions: how to die. This is not the role of the federal government,” said D.C. resident Mary Klein, who has terminal ovarian cancer and wants the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end her suffering if it becomes intolerable. “I am counting on members of Congress from the six states with medical aid-in-dying laws to insist on stripping this amendment from the final appropriations bill.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, “The Death with Dignity Act,” in February, after the D.C. Council passed it in November by an 11-2 vote.
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%).