Our View of the Legislature – Medical Aid in Dying

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The Virginia General Assembly considered two bills that would have allowed for medical assistance in dying, colloquially known as Assisted Suicide. One bill is still active.

The proposals modify Virginia’s healthcare decision making act, and would allow an adult diagnosed with a terminal condition to request and an attending health care provider to prescribe a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending the patient’s life. There are precautions in the bills and protections from legal liability for a practitioner who assists or declines to assist. The bills make it a felony to coerce or influence a patient to end their life.

SB 280 (Hashmi) is the version that is still active. It was approved by the Senate Committee on Education and Health and then by the full Senate. The House version, however, did not have the same fate. HB 858 (Hope) was approved by the House Committee in Health and Human Services, and went to the floor of the House. It was read in the House on two different days, but did not get a vote on its third day, which was the last chance before crossover. HB 858 failed.

dLCV knows that there are strongly held opinions on both sides of this question. dLCV is interested in hearing feedback from the community about this proposal. dLCV will try to represent the various perspectives of the community.

In earlier debates, dLCV raised concerns that medical assistance in dying should not become an alternative resulting from a failure to provide adequate health care for people with complex disabilities. We also urged that if the option does become available, that people with disabilities not be excluded from the option solely because of their disability. To the extent possible, these concerns appear to have been addressed in the proposed legislation.

The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is to advance independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. If you there is something we should know about, please let us know. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.