May 21, 2024

US Congress ponders assisted suicide

Opponents are trying to drum up support for a resolution

A resolution condemning assisted suicide has been introduced into the US House of Representatives. Both sides of the debate treated it as a milestone, but it does not have the force of law and merely expresses the “sense of Congress”.

The resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 80, reads:

 … assisted suicide (sometimes referred to as death with dignity, end-of-life options, aid-in-dying, or similar phrases) puts everyone, including those most vulnerable, at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of the health care system.

The resolution goes on to support this contention by referring to the need for palliative care and the tragedy of suicide. It insists that the government has a right and a duty to legislate about end-of-life care:

there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide, that the Government has a legitimate interest in prohibiting assisted suicide, and that such prohibitions rationally relate to “protecting the vulnerable from coercion” and “protecting disabled and terminally ill people from prejudice, negative and inaccurate stereotypes, and ‘societal indifference;’”

It also slams lack of transparency in the states where assisted suicide is legal:

there is an astounding lack of transparency in the practice of assisted suicide to the extent that State health departments and other authorities admittedly have no method of knowing if it is being practiced within the bounds of State laws and have no funding or authority to make such a determination…

[and] some State laws actively conceal assisted suicide by directing the physician to list the cause of death as the underlying condition without reference to death by suicide;

Supporters of assisted suicide were horrified at the move. “Even though the resolution would not have the force of law, we urge members of Congress to reject it. It contains false statements, and disregards their constituents who strongly support this end-of-life option,” said Compassion & Choices president Barbara Coombs Lee, who coauthored the nation's first medical aid-in-dying law in Oregon in 1994.

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