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Rubio, Colleagues Question Pfizer’s Position on Medically Assisted Suicide

Feb 28, 2024 | Press Releases

A recent report exposed Pfizer’s financial assistance to Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC), raising questions about its stance on assisted suicide. DWDC has pushed to expand the eligibility for “medically assisted death” to children as young as 12 years old. Pfizer’s support for DWDC raises concerns that it is complicit in prematurely ending lives. 

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and colleagues sent a letter to Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla regarding Pfizer’s donations to DWDC, and the company’s stance on “medically assisted death.” 

  • “The practice of ‘medically assisted death’ contradicts Pfizer’s stated purpose of ‘delivering breakthroughs to change patients’ lives.’
  • “As Pfizer has received millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to develop treatments and conduct medical research, Pfizer must be completely transparent to the federal government, and the American public, about where the company stands on medically assisted death.” 

Joining Rubio were Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

The full text of the letter is below. 

Dear Dr. Bourla:

We write in response to concerning information that has surfaced regarding Pfizer’s donations to Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC), an organization that advocates for “medically assisted death.” Pfizer has received millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to develop cutting-edge treatments for some of the most critical medical challenges in our time. Pfizer’s decision to donate to an organization that advocates for early death calls into question the values and priorities of your company. 

DWDC is a registered non-profit that advocates for “end-of-life rights,” including “medical assistance in dying.” Also referred to as assisted suicide, “medical assistance in death” is a process of prematurely ending a person’s life, usually through a physician administering large doses of painkilling drugs or providing the patient drugs to end their own life. This practice is illegal in most countries, but some Western nations such as Canada, the Netherlands, and parts of the United States, have legalized it. Patients are required to meet certain criteria to qualify for medically assisted death, such as approval by two independent physicians or completing a waiting period. 

Organizations like DWDC have actively worked to increase the number of people who qualify for “medically assisted death.” Canada has some of the most flexible regulations for medically assisted death in the world, permitting assisted death for individuals with a “reasonably foreseeable” death, including those who suffer from mental illness, beginning in March 2027. DWDC is lobbying to loosen regulations to an even more extreme standard, allowing doctors to push death on “mature minors.” Canada’s current law forbids assisted death for patients under age 18. In DWDC’s opinion, however, the Canadian Parliament should extend the practice to 12-year old minors, arguing “there should be a presumption of capacity for these minors.” 

It has come to our attention that Pfizer is one of the 9,000 donors listed in DWDC’s 2022 annual report. As you may know, medically assisted death requires the use of drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose. Pfizer manufactures many of the drugs that are used off-label for medically assisted death, such as cisatracurium besylate, diazepam, fentanyl, and midazolam. In 2021, Pfizer issued a statement opposing the use of its products to administer lethal injections of prisoners, but the company has not released a statement opposing the use of similar drugs for “medically assisted death.” The practice of “medically assisted death” contradicts Pfizer’s stated purpose of “delivering breakthroughs to change patients’ lives.” Your company is dismantling public trust in our nation’s health system by supporting an organization that aims to take the lives of young children.  

As Pfizer has received millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to develop treatments and conduct medical research, Pfizer must be completely transparent to the federal government, and the American public, about where the company stands on medically assisted death. Please provide specific answers to the following questions: 

  1. Were U.S. taxpayer funds used to make the donation to DWDC? If not, from which source did the donation come from? Why was such a donation made by Pfizer and not its individual shareholders? 
  2. What is Pfizer’s official position on “medically assisted death?”
    1. If Pfizer supports “medically assisted death,” does Pfizer support DWDC’s position that minors have the mental capacity to consent to “medically assisted death?”
      1. If so, has Pfizer disclosed this to shareholders?
    2.  If Pfizer does not support “medically assisted death,” will Pfizer publicly commit to cease donations to DWDC and similar groups that support “medically assisted death?”
  3. Does Pfizer currently manufacture and/or sell products that are used (regardless of whether prescribed off-label) for “medically assisted death” in the United States or elsewhere?
    1.  If so, does Pfizer support groups like DWDC in order to increase market demand for its products?
  4.  Which criteria does Pfizer use to determine to whom they donate? 
  5.  How much, in total, has Pfizer donated to “medically assisted death” advocacy groups over the past ten years? 
  6. Will Pfizer continue to donate to DWDC, or other “medically assisted death” advocacy groups, this year? 
  7. Has Pfizer ever utilized its donations to DWDC, or similar groups, as a justification for a positive Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) rating?
    1. If so, does Pfizer consider “medically assisted death” to be a legitimate method for addressing climate change, environmental challenges, or social issues? 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your prompt response. 

Sincerely,