In October 2016, the Washington, D.C. Council voted to approve the so-called “Death with Dignity” bill that would legalize assisted suicide. After voting a second time, the bill was sent to the mayor’s office. Despite solid opposition, the assisted suicide lobby expended much effort into legalizing assisted suicide in D.C.
Mayor Muriel Bowser previously announced that she would not veto the bill (despite her health director’s open opposition to it). And today, Bowser quietly signed the bill into law, making Washington, D.C. the seventh jurisdiction in the country to legalize assisted suicide.
Bowser refused to make a statement explaining her decision. Even as late as 4:30pm ET, her social media feeds remained quiet, too, filled with statements about cookies, a 5K, and the roads, but nothing on assisted suicide.
The bill will now be sent to Congress for a 30-day review period, and opponents of the bill are urging Congress, currently controlled by Republicans, to use its appropriate power to override District laws and void this bill. If Congress does not void this bill, it could reportedly take effect in October 2017.
Black D.C. residents have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the bill, contending that the legalization of assisted suicide will lead to vulnerable residents — such as the elderly, the poor, and minorities — being targeted.
There are numerous other concerns with the bill, including:
- The doctor will decide if the patient is eligible for assisted suicide. Advocates insist this will lead to more patient autonomy, but if the patient isn’t able to personally make the decision, then that’s not autonomy.
- A psychological exam is not required before approving the assisted suicide, meaning that someone suffering from mental illness would not be ruled 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 explained.
- The bill encourages coercion. The heir to the patient’s estate — someone who could benefit from their death — can be there to witness the patient’s request for fatal drugs. The heir can also pick up the drugs for the patient. This means that someone who is elderly, wealthy, and suffering from a terminal illness can have their heir not only pressure them into assisted suicide, but the heir can also look over their shoulder every step of the way and make sure the person goes through with it.
- The D.C. bill allows insurance companies or government entities to decide whether a patient’s life-saving treatment is covered — or if the far less expensive assisted suicide pills are covered instead. This is already happening in California and Oregon where assisted suicide is legal: people are told that treatment like chemotherapy, which can cost thousands of dollars and go on for years, is denied by insurance, while the $100 for a few lethal drugs is readily approved. This can easily turn into another form of coercion.
It’s vital that the D.C. bill not be allowed to stand. Assisted suicide is spreading across the country, but don’t be mistaken: it’s not “death with dignity.” It’s dangerous.