House members approve measure to repeal D.C. assisted suicide law

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lawrence Looi, EPA

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The House Appropriations Committee voted
July 13 in favor of an amendment to repeal the District of Columbia’s assisted
suicide law.

The day
before the vote, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan sent a letter to members of
the committee urging them to “nullify the D.C. City Council’s
deceptively named ‘Death with Dignity Act’ that legalizes the dangerous and
unethical practice of doctor-assisted suicide.”

amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill looks to repeal the assisted suicide law, which went into effect this past February. It was
introduced by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, who told the committee there is
“nothing dignified about suicide” in his opinion.

Harris also
called the act “bad policy” and said that “physicians were
playing God” by prescribing lethal medications to terminally ill patients
who want to end their lives.

legislation permits physicians in the District of Columbia to legally prescribe
lethal drugs to patients who have been deemed mentally competent and who have
received a terminal diagnosis of six months or less.

In his
July 12 letter to House Appropriations Committee members, Cardinal Dolan said
the law was “seriously flawed” and said it “poses the greatest
risks of abuse and coercion to those who are poor, elderly, disabled, members
of a minority group, or without access to good medical care.”

cardinal, who is chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops, also told committee members that the law could cause the deaths
of many people who are not terminally ill and it also “reflects a bias
against persons with disabilities and serious illness.”

He went
on to say the legislation “undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors
vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of
their patients. Seriously ill patients — who are often depressed — need our
authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain
management as they enter their final days.”

The National
Right to Life Committee similarly sent a July 12 letter urging House committee
members to vote for the amendment to repeal the assisted-suicide measure.

In a
statement, the group said the pro-life movement is as “concerned with
protecting the lives of older people and people with disabilities as it has
been dedicated to protecting unborn children from abortion.”

Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Actions Funds, praised the committee’s
vote to repeal the assisted -suicide measure, saying: “We welcome any
efforts at the congressional level to halt assisted suicide policy which will
only put vulnerable D.C. residents — the terminally ill, the disabled and the
poor — at risk.”

D.C. Catholic Conference, which represents the public policy interests of the
Catholic Church in the District of Columbia, joined a broad-based coalition of
other groups in opposing the assisted-suicide measure when it came up for a

the City Council approved it, the Catholic conference issued a statement saying the bill
“imperils residents particularly those who are sick, elderly, disabled,
and uninsured in our communities. It allows for coercion and abuse including
third-parties administering the lethal drugs to patients who may or may not be
incapacitated and or even requesting assisted suicide.”

District is the nation’s seventh jurisdiction to allow doctors to assist the
terminally ill to kill themselves. Six states — Vermont, Oregon, Washington state, Montana, California and Colorado — also have legalized allowed assisted suicide.

physician-assisted suicide laws have been introduced and have failed in 22

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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