Democratic Lawmakers Seek To Allow Federal Funding for Assisted Suicide 

Medically-assisted death is legal in 10 states and Washington, D.C. and is being considered by a slew of other states this year.

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A patient receiving end of life palliative care. Getty Images

For nearly 30 years — since Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted death — Congress has prevented federal funding such as Medicare from being used by patients to pay for the practice. A bill proposed by Democratic lawmakers seeks to change that. 

In 1997, Congress passed the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act, which prohibits using federal funds to provide for any health care services that assisted in someone’s death, including “assisting in the suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing of any individual.” 

“Medical aid-in-dying, an authorized medical practice, is not euthanasia, mercy killing, or assisted suicide,” a draft discussion of the new “Patient Access to End of Life Care Act’’ obtained by the Sun reads.

In states where physician-assisted death is legal, the 1997 restrictions “shall not apply to any information, referrals, guidance, or medical care provided consistent with such programs,” the bill, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Brittany Pettersen and Scott Peters, notes.

Medical-aid-in-dying, the bill notes, is when a “mentally capable, terminally ill adult with less than six months to live requests a prescription from their qualified clinician for medication to bring about a peaceful death to ingest at any point if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

Physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients is legal in 10 states and Washington, D.C. — and more than 10 states are actively considering legislation to allow it, including New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and North Carolina, according to Death With Dignity’s legislative tracker

As it has been increasingly legalized, the practice has been fiercely debated, with proponents arguing it allows patients to end their suffering and die in peace surrounded by their families. Opponents counter that doctors are meant to heal patients, not provide the means to their death, and say providing lethal drugs is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. 

Public polling indicates broad support for doctor-assisted suicide, as the Sun has reported, with Gallup inducing that a majority of Americans have “consistently favored” it for nearly three decades.

Yet, an online petition with hundreds of signatures is already forming against the proposal, noting that it “would force Americans to pay for assisted suicide (medically approved killing by poison) with their tax dollars.”

“I oppose assisted suicide and I vehemently oppose paying for medically approved killing,” the petition on Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coaltion writes of the American legislation. “Thank you in advance for upholding my conscience rights by not approving the use of tax dollars for killing.” 

The Canadian group is outspoken in warning America not to follow its path, arguing that legalizing medically-assisted death opens a door that can’t be shut. In Canada, as the Sun reported, assisted suicide numbers have been surging, with more than 13,000 patients dying from the procedure in 2022 — representing 4 percent of the country’s total deaths.

The New York Sun

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