Continuing Battle for the Right to Die with Dignity

Jul 1, 2018 | Health

Washington, D.C. – In addition to California, six other states and the District of Columbia have authorized medical aid in dying. Collectively, jurisdictions represent nearly one out of five Americans (19%) and have 40 years of combined experience safely using this end-of-life care option.

In May, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia put California’s three-year-old right to die law on hold. The judge said he halted the law not because he challenged its legality but because he believed the legislature should never have passed it during a special session—the legislation was passed during a special session on health care funding.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra appealed the ruling and on June 15, The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside issued an immediate stay and as a result, the end of life option is once again viable in California. Opponents of the appellate court ruling now have until July 2 to file objections.

Just like California, right to die legislation in the District of Columbia (D.C.)   also came under attack. Congressional opponents first tried to repeal the law in February 2017 during a 30-legislative-day review period and again during last year’s appropriations process. In both instances, they failed. 

The D.C. legislation was targeted by congressional opponents again this year, however last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee left D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act Intact. Like California’s End of Life Option Act, D.C.’s 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. 

When the Senate Appropriations Committee was considering whether to leave the D.C. law intact, Kim Callinan, CEO for Compassion & Choices the organization which led the campaign to pass the D.C. Death with Dignity Act said, “Public opinion is strongly on our side.” Callinan also called on congressional members of the seven states that have authorized medical aid in dying to make sure that DC residents can access the same peaceful end-of-life care option available to their constituents.

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. In addition, a Medscape survey showed at least 7,500 doctors nationwide from 25 medical specialties, support medical aid in dying by a margin that nearly a two to one. 

Death with Dignity 


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