Death with dignity bill introduced in Virginia with message from ailing congresswoman
Eleven states across the country have dignity in dying laws which allow those facing the end of their lives to take control over their time and manner of their death.
It’s a controversial movement but one a Virginia Congresswoman is personally connected to.
“This is a bill designed to alleviate suffering for those who are terminally ill,” said Richmond-area Senator Ghazala Hashmi as she introduced her version of what advocates call a compassionate option bill.
It would allow someone facing a terminal illness to request for a self-administered controlled substance to end their own life. It’s the third year the bill has come before the Virginia legislature, but Hashmi and House patron Delegate Patrick Hope believe they’ve put enough guardrails in the effort to get it to the governor’s desk.
Hope pointed to a 2022 poll of 700 Virginians which showed nearly 80 percent of Democrats and independents, and about 60 percent of Republicans, would like such an end of life option.
“This is about dignity and this is about compassion in someone’s end of life,” Hope said.
Among the most moving moments of the announcement of the bills Monday morning was a message from Virginia’s 10th District Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, read by state Senator Jennifer Boysko.
Wexton said she first heard about the death with dignity movement from her constituents about 5 years ago. Since then, she’s been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease she called “Parkison's on steroids,” and it's become a deeply personal issue.
Wexton expects to be in a wheelchair by the end of the year, but her body will make any movements impossible before long.
Boysko broke into tears as she read her friend’s message:
“If this bill becomes law in Virginia, it would return the control over to when, where and how our stories end, not to the diseases," Boysko read. "And that’s the greatest gift you, our elected representatives, can give us.”
The effort will undoubtedly face pushback from religious-minded Democrats and Republicans when it heads to committee in the coming weeks.