Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Assisted Suicide

(Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
December 22, 2019

While impeachment divided the House of Representatives along party lines, a group of lawmakers is rallying around a bipartisan resolution condemning assisted suicide as Congress heads into winter recess.

Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio) and Lou Correa (D., Calif.) introduced a resolution last week declaring that medically assisted suicide "puts everyone, including those most vulnerable, at risk of deadly harm." Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.), a co-sponsor of the resolution, told the Washington Free Beacon that the resolution sends the message that "every life is precious"—at a time when nine states and the District of Columbia allow doctors to legally prescribe lethal doses of medication to patients deemed terminally ill.

"Encouraging assisted suicide sends a message to people who are elderly, experiencing depression, have a disability, or are subject to emotional or financial distress, that suicide is a good option and maybe even expected of them," he said.

Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, said the bipartisan appeal on Capitol Hill reflects the debate at the state level. Lawmakers in heavily Democratic Maryland and conservative strongholds like Utah have blocked such bills.

"The resolution shows when you have a human issue where everyone can see the issues involved, life or death, people can come together on Capitol Hill," Valliere said. "It's a human issue," rather than a partisan one.

The Trump administration has also turned its attention to the issue as more and more states weigh legislation to legalize assisted suicide. In October, the National Council on Disability released a report highlighting the threat that such laws can pose for vulnerable patients. The study found that while such laws "contain provisions intended to safeguard patients from problems or abuse," they often create perverse incentives, particularly for insurance companies and public sector health care agencies.

"When assisted suicide is legalized in the context of the US healthcare system, it immediately becomes the cheapest treatment," the report said. "There is evidence that patients, including people with disabilities, are being denied treatment by insurers and offered assisted suicide instead."

The council concluded that "states should not legalize any form of assisted suicide or active euthanasia."

"That report affected people," Valliere said. "I've sat down with people from progressive Democrat offices who said they were pro-assisted suicide and now are against it."

Wenstrup and Correa cited the need to protect the country's most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

"I believe patients facing the end of their lives deserve to have a health care system that ensures access to the best and most comprehensive medical care possible, tailored to their needs," Wenstrup said in a statement. "Physician-assisted suicide not only devalues health care, but it also devalues the lives of all human beings."

Correa stressed the need to provide terminal illness patients with hope.

"Patients with terminal illnesses and individuals with disabilities deserve access to hope. There are numerous concerns with assisted suicide laws and proposals, which may inadvertently affect persons with disabilities. This resolution is a step towards protecting vulnerable patients across the nation," Correa said.

Supporters hope to counter the growing list of states that have approved the practice. Maine, New Jersey, and Hawaii have legalized the practice since 2017.