Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2019 / 14:30 pm
The House of Representatives passed a bill late Monday to support palliative and hospice care—but Catholic groups are concerned that a key omission could allow federal funding of practices they say amount to assisted dying.
On Monday, the House passed the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (HR 647) by voice vote; the bill funds efforts to increase palliative care faculties at medical schools, as well as palliative care and hospice training and education.
Palliative care involves pain management and physical, psychological and emotional care for those suffering from a serious illness, and can be provided alongside medical care. Hospice care is when palliative care is given to patients with a terminal diagnosis, who do not wish to unnecessarily prolong their life through extraordinary means of medical care but who wish to remain as comfortable as possible.
The bill requires that federally-funded palliative care be in accord with Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997, in that it cannot promote “assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.”
However, language that is not included in the bill that has some Catholic groups, including the U.S. Bishops Conference, concerned.
The House bill omits language contained in the Senate version of the legislation, introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) in July.
The Senate bill states: “As used in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) palliative care and hospice shall not be furnished for the purpose of causing, or the purpose of assisting in causing, a patient’s death, for any reason.”
This clarification is significant, supporters say, because it offers an unprecedented definition of palliative and hospice care that specifically excludes any act that would hasten or bring about death. It refers to certain controversial practices which some in the medical community recognize as a legitimate part of palliative care, but which may cause or assist in causing the death of the patient.