Battle continues over medical aid-in-dying laws

Pills in blisters
The U.S. House yesterday passed a spending bill that would block five laws affecting the District of Columbia, including its newly adopted medical aid-in-dying law. (Shutterstock)

The battle continues over medical aid-in-dying laws in both the District of Columbia and New York state.

The U.S. House yesterday passed a spending bill that would block five laws affecting the District of Columbia, including its newly adopted medical aid-in-dying law, according to The Washington Post. That action drew fire from supporters who urged the Senate to reject the provision included in the 2018 D.C. appropriations bill.

D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act, which became law in February, allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they can use if they decide to end their lives. Supporters had expected members of Congress who oppose such laws to use Congress’s power over the District’s budget to gut the funding for the law.

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RELATED: D.C. Death with Dignity Act becomes law

“Congress should be focusing on pressing national issues, like helping Florida residents recover from Hurricane Irma, instead of taking away the legal rights of terminally ill adults like me who just want the option to end intolerable suffering,” D.C. resident Mary Klein, who has terminal ovarian cancer, said in an announcement from the advocacy group Compassion & Choices.

RELATED: 504 California patients opted for physician-assisted suicide during first year of law

Earlier this month, New York’s highest court ruled that medical aid-in-dying isn’t a fundamental right, rejecting a lawsuit by terminally ill patients. The state’s Court of Appeals said physician-assisted dying isn’t a Constitutional right but indicated it would not stand in the way if New York’s legislature passed a medical aid-in-dying law, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Six states have authorized doctor-assisted dying, including California, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Montana. But the growing movement to pass medical aid-in-dying laws raises ethical questions for many physicians.

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