What Does the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act Do?


Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as HR 1003 by Reps. Ralph Hall (D-TX), Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Introduced in the U.S. Senate as S. 304 by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John Ashcroft (R-MO)

What does the bill do?

The bill ensures that federal tax funds are not used to pay for and promote assisted suicide or euthanasia. Section 2, the “General Prohibition on Use of Federal Assistance,” prevents funding items or services “the purpose of which is to cause, or assist in causing, the suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing of any individual.”

The bill then specifically spells out areas in which funds cannot be used: programs for individuals with disabilities, the public health service system, Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care ombudsman program, block grants to states for social services, Indian health care program, the military health care system, Federal Employees Health Benefits plans, health care for Peace Corps volunteers, medical services for federal prisoners, District of Columbia appropriations, and Legal Services. In addition, the bill amends the Patient Self-Determination Act to ensure that federal law does not impose a mandatory requirement on health care facilities in states where assisted suicide has been legalized to advise every patient upon admission about his or her “right” to obtain lethal drugs for suicide.

Why do sponsors believe the bill is needed?

In cases likely soon to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, federal courts of appeal have declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide. In a state in which it has been legalized by referendum, officials have stated Medicaid dollars will be used to fund it should the law, currently in litigation, go into effect. The question of whether federal funds and facilities will be used to fund and promote assisted suicide will arise anywhere it becomes legal.

Does the bill affect withholding of treatment or pain relief?

The “Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act” does not create any limitation regarding the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment or of nutrition or hydration, nor does it affect funding for alleviating pain or discomfort for patients, The Rule of Construction in Section 3 removes any doubt on this score.

Where does President Clinton stand on assisting suicide?

When asked in the 1992 campaign about legislation to allow assisted suicide, be said, “I certainly would do what I could to oppose it.” On November 12, 1996, the Clinton Administration filed “friend of the court” briefs with the Supreme Court in opposition to physician-assisted suicide. In the brief for the Administration, Solicitor General Walter Dellinger wrote, “There is an important and common-sense distinction between withdrawing artificial supports so that a disease will progress to its inevitable end, and providing chemicals to be used to kill someone.”

Where does the public stand on tax funding of assisted suicide?

87% answered “No” when asked “Should tax dollars be spent to pay for the cost of assisting suicide and euthanasia?” in a national Wirthlin Worldwide poll November 5, 1996 with a 3.1% margin of error.

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