ACU's letter to Congress on DC's Death With Dignity Act

On behalf of the American Conservative Union (ACU), I urge Congress to act within its powers to reject the District of Columbia’s Death with Dignity Act, or failing that, to prohibit funding the enforcement of the provisions provided in this law at the earliest opportunity.

This D.C. law is wrought with flaws in the procedure used to allow physician assisted suicide. Perhaps the most important omission is that mental health screening of the patient is not required. Most mental health professionals agree that the root cause of many suicides is depression and the sense of being a burden to others. If a patient does not undergo a psychological examination before obtaining the fatal drugs, it is impossible to know the influence that mental depression or mental illness has on the patients’ decision. As Congress is well aware, in light of the recent enactment of mental health legislation, people with depression and other mental illnesses are able to live productive and fulfilling lives if they are properly diagnosed and treated.

Other serious problems with the law include:

  • Physicians need to assert that a patient has less than six months to live, but these estimates have often proved to be wrong, sometimes by a matter of years.
  • Although two witnesses need to attest to the voluntary nature of the suicide, an heir of the patient is eligible to be a witness.
  • The lethal dose is soluble in water and alcohol.
  • There is no requirement that a doctor, nurse, or independent party be present at the time of death.

Furthermore, this law disregards advances made in the field of end-of-life care that include pain management counseling, comfort care, and emotional and pastoral support.

Please use the congressional tools at your disposal to stop this law. It degrades human value and rejecting it demonstrates that Congress is on the side of ensuring a dignified life for every citizen.


Matt Schlapp Chairman, American Conservative Union