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Senator Lankford, Congressman Wenstrup Introduce Resolutions to Block DC Bill Authorizing Physician-Assisted Suicide

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (OK) and Congressman Brad Wenstrup (OH-02) today introduced companion resolutions of disapproval to overturn “The Death with Dignity Act of 2015” (Act 21-577), which legalizes physician-assisted suicide in the District of Columbia. 

“If assisted suicide becomes legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent this outcome,” said Lankford. “Washington, DC’s assisted suicide bill would erode our culture’s respect for life, and possibly lead to the mistreatment and exploitation of the disabled and most vulnerable among us. Assisted suicide is a recipe for abuse, including elder abuse. The District of Columbia has also not addressed the legality of their ability to create this law, since Congress has prohibited the use of government funds for purposes related to assisted suicide. This bill is about much more than dignity—there are far-reaching ramifications that could deteriorate America’s values regarding our foundational rights.”

“As a physician of over 25 years, access to quality healthcare for every American is a concern that is close to my heart. By authorizing doctors to violate the Hippocratic Oath of ‘do no harm,’ physician-assisted suicide undermines a key safeguard that protects our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and ensures our loved ones receive the best medical care when they need it most,” said Dr. Wenstrup. “Under this new law, if D.C. residents are not able to pay for health care out of pocket, they may find their options severely limited when facing a new diagnosis, suffering from a chronic illness, facing a disability, or struggling with mental illness. If Congress fails to act on this, it will imply tacit federal approval of physician-assisted suicide — and I firmly believe that is not the right path.”

The Death with Dignity Act of 2015 allows an adult who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, having less than six months to live, to receive a prescription for medication to end his or her life. There are concerns that the definition of “terminal disease” is too broad, as many conditions—such as diabetes or leukemia—are terminal if left untreated. The full text of the legislation can be found here. Washington, DC has now joined six states including California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana, and Colorado that have authorized physician-assisted suicide.

Congress has the authority under the US Constitution and the DC Home Rule Act to review actions by the District of Columbia. Specifically, Congress has 30 legislative days to review bills passed by the DC Council. If Congress passes and the President signs a resolution of disapproval into law within this 30-day timeframe, the bill from DC cannot become law.

Lankford is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, which has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia. The Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-12 (Apr. 30, 1997), which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, strictly forbids the use of government funds for purposes related to assisted suicide. 

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