Towards the end of last year, Washington, D.C., lawmakers voted to approve a bill legalizing assisted suicide. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law, although there was strong opposition from D.C. residents. But Republicans quickly took action to block the bill, which was sent to Congress for a 30-day review period. The resolution to block the bill has 30 legislative days to be passed by Congress and signed by the president. And Republicans have taken their first step towards overturning the law, with the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee voting against it, 22-14.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced the resolution in January 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,” they said in a statement. They were joined in their opposition by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees D.C. affairs. “I worry that assisted suicide will create a marketplace for death,” he said. “I think it’s fundamentally wrong.” He also argued that the law has “serious flaws.”
More than a dozen congressmen voiced their opinion on the bill, and while it passed the committee, some argued in favor of the assisted suicide bill. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said, “Do the right thing and mind your own business.” Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s congressional representative, argued that congressional lawmakers can allow the bill to stand, even if they disagree with it. “We are asking you to agree with American doctrine that local laws are for local residents,” she said.
Norton neglects to point out that the assisted suicide bill was strongly opposed by residents, especially many black D.C. residents, who rightly worry that the most vulnerable residents in Washington, D.C., would be targeted — like the poor, the elderly, and minorities. The bill had a number of problematic issues to make people concerned, including the doctor choosing whether the patient is eligible for assisted suicide; not requiring a psychological exam before the assisted suicide is approved; allowing the heir to the patient’s estate to be present for the request and to pick up the prescription for the fatal drugs, encouraging coercion; and the bill allows insurance companies or government entities to decide if a patient’s treatment will be covered, like chemotherapy to save their lives, or the cheaper assisted suicide drugs.
Congress must continue to act to prevent this law from being allowed to stand.