For Immediate Release
December 12, 2019
Contact: Ann.Tumolo@mail.house.gov
(202) 807-9431
 Wenstrup, Correa Introduce Bipartisan Legislation on the Dangers of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-OH) and Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) introduced H. Con. Res 79, “expressing the sense of Congress that legalizing physician-assisted suicide puts the most vulnerable of our society at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of America’s healthcare system.” Joining Rep. Wenstrup and Correa as original cosponsors were Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-LA), Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO).

Earlier today, Congressman Wenstrup spoke at an event hosted by the National Council on Disability examining the dangers of legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

After the resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives, Congressman Wenstrup and Congressman Correa released the following statements:

“Physician-assisted suicide undermines the core values of our health care system- like protecting our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and people experiencing psychiatric diagnoses. Americans deserve better. 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. Physician-assisted suicide not only devalues health care, but it also devalues the lives of all human beings,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-OH). 

 “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,” said Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA).

Nonpartisan patients’ rights and disability rights advocacy organizations across the country have spoken out in strong support of this bipartisan resolution, including:

Patients Rights Action Fund: “Congressmen Lou Correa, Brad Wenstrup, and all the cosponsors should be commended for introducing this new truly bi-partisan Sense of Congress resolution which highlights the inherently discriminatory nature of assisted suicide laws. A recent report from the National Council on Disability found that people living with disabilities are targeted for disfavored, deadly treatment and face greater barriers to accessing health care when assisted suicide is legal. We as a society should ensure that vulnerable people enjoy the same access to suicide prevention care and all health care as everyone else. I encourage lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation that exposes the dangers of assisted suicide,” said Matt Vallière, Executive Director, Patients Rights Action Fund.

National Council on Independent Living: “Our society places a high value on physical appearance and ability, and stigmatizes significant disability. It's no surprise that those of us who grew up able-bodied and then became disabled might initially see disability as a huge loss of one’s former dreams and physical abilities,” said Kelly Buckland, Executive Director. “When someone is first hit with this, they may feel they’d be better off dead. As one struggles to get basic needs met, some people feel worn down. If assisted suicide had been legal in the past, even if it were supposedly only for those with 'terminal' conditions, I might not be here today. I’m grateful that assisted suicide was not legal back then, and I'm committed to keeping it that way. This is an important reason why the National Council on Independent Living opposes assisted suicide laws. NCIL is a leader in the disability rights movement, our political struggle for equal rights. And, among other things, equal rights include equal suicide prevention.”

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF): “Where assisted suicide is 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, which can never be undone,” said Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst. “The so-called safeguards are very weak, and the lack of oversight hides these dangers from public view. Moreover, assisted suicide laws are a prescription for elder abuse and abuse of people with disabilities. Supporters of assisted suicide say such laws won’t affect disabled people—but they will, whether or not they realize it. But there is a legal alternative: anyone dying in discomfort may legally receive palliative sedation. Under these circumstances, assisted suicide is not real choice, but a phony form of freedom.”

ADAPT: "Disabled people and seniors who need assistance with everyday tasks like dressing and bathing want the choice to get those services at home and to have control over how they're delivered. We do not want to be forced into a nursing facility, nor forced to live in poverty to qualify. Unfortunately, that choice is not a reality for most of us. In states that have legalized assisted suicide, Oregon data shows, over a third of those who request assistance to die do so because of 'feelings of being a burden' and over 90% cite 'loss of autonomy' as a factor," said Daniese McMullin-Powell, an ADAPT organizer in Delaware. "If the only alternative to death is poverty and segregation in nursing facilities, assisted suicide is not a 'choice.' Society is failing to ensure access to consumer controlled long-term services. The last thing we need in this time of draconian budget cuts in Medicaid is the legalization of assisted suicide laws, because the untimely deaths of disabled Americans can easily be seen as a cost saving answer."

Not Dead Yet: "As a national, secular, social justice organization, Not Dead Yet strongly supports this bipartisan effort to speak truth to counter the many myths about legalized assisted suicide," said Diane Coleman, President/CEO. "As Americans with disabilities, we are on the front lines of the nation's health care system that too often devalues old, ill, and disabled people. We are deeply concerned that profits are being prioritized over human needs. So we are grateful for this Sense of Congress that explains the dangers of mistake, coercion, and abuse under a public policy of assisted suicide."

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Fund:  "Empowering doctors to assist patients in killing themselves has led to an inevitable erosion of trust in the motives of doctors, health care institutions, and insurers.  This has been detrimental to patients, degraded the quality of medical care, and compromised the integrity of the medical profession wherever assisted suicide has been legalized,” said Dr. William L.  Toffler, National Director. “The solution to suffering is not to end the life of the sufferer; rather society's focus at the end of life should be to alleviate suffering by improving access to hospice and palliative care whenever it is needed."

Background:

Congressman Wenstrup joined a bipartisan group of legislators to introduce H. Con. Res. 80 during the 115th Congressional session in September of 2017. In October 2018, the National Council on Disability’s report entitled “the Dangers of Physician Assisted Suicide Laws” recommended that Congress pass this resolution.

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