Last month, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser quietly signed into law the so-called “Death with Dignity” bill, legalizing assisted suicide. Bowser did not make a statement about her decision to not veto the bill, despite heavy opposition from D.C. residents. However, all was not lost; Congress has to approve of all D.C. laws before they are implemented. The bill was sent to Congress for a 30-day review period, and already, Congressional Republicans are signaling that they want to block the bill from passing.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio.) introduced a resolution condemning the bill. “Washington, DC’s assisted suicide bill would erode our culture’s respect for life, and possibly lead to the mistreatment and exploitation of the disabled and most vulnerable among us,” a statement read. Wenstrup, a podiatrist and former Army combat surgeon, was particularly vocal about his opposition, saying, “As a doctor, I value human life and providing comfort and hope for human life,” and he explained that a failure to intervene on the part of Congress would equal “tacit federal approval” of assisted suicide.
They aren’t the only ones looking to stop the bill, though. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — which oversees D.C. affairs — said that he “fundamentally disagrees” with the bill. “Assisted suicide is not something we take lightly,” he said.
After being introduced, the resolution has 30 legislative days to be passed by Congress and signed by the president.
While the assisted suicide lobby fought fiercely to get the D.C. bill passed, it was met with heavy opposition, particularly from black residents who feared that the bill would target the most vulnerable — the elderly, the poor, and minorities. And indeed, the bill had much to be concerned about, including:
- The doctor decides if the patient is eligible for assisted suicide, which defeats the purpose of “greater patient autonomy” if the patient isn’t the one making the decision.
- A psychological exam is not required before approving the assisted suicide, so someone suffering from mental illness would not be screened out. “A patient may not have the capacity to make a real choice if they are depressed and untreated, or feel unwanted,” the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA said.
- The bill encourages coercion, by allowing the heir to the patient’s estate to be present for the request for assisted suicide, and can also pick up the prescription for the patient.
- The bill allows insurance companies or government entities to decide if a patient’s treatment will be covered, including life-saving treatments like chemotherapy — or if, instead, only the cheaper assisted suicide pills will be covered. In California and Oregon, this has already become a problem, where things like chemotherapy (which is expensive) is denied, and assisted suicide is covered.
Assisted suicide has been beginning to spread across the country, but Congress has a chance to put a stop to it, at least in Washington, D.C., for now. Hopefully, this will be the first step towards putting this spreading fire out for good.