The D.C. Council approved a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the District despite outcries from members of the black community who are fearful it will pressure low income individuals into choosing death.
The “right to die” bill passed an initial vote in the full council Tuesday by an 11-2 margin. The bill will still have to pass a final vote in the council and it is unclear whether Mayor Muriel Bowser will support it, however if the vote goes the same way it will be veto proof. Many black residents in the city oppose the legislation, fearing it will be abused on racial lines, reports The Washington Post.
Many in the community are also concerned the law will pressure poor individuals with limited health care options into requesting the lethal medication.
“We believe in life until natural death and that there is a racist component to it,” Leona Redmond, a community organizer in D.C. against the legislation, told The Washington Post. “It’s eugenics being dressed up to look like it’s the best thing since gravy.”
The bill allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to request a prescription for lethal medication. The Death With Dignity Act of 2016, sponsored by Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh, bars anyone younger than 18 from requesting the medication.
While the council works on a plan to help people end their lives, homicides continue to plague the city. District officials have not passed a crime package in the wake of the 54 percent spike in murders in 2015.
The murder rate is just 16 percent lower so far this year, with 113 homicides across the city. The alarming surge in homicides is down from the shocking numbers in 2015, but is still historically high. There were a total of 105 homicides in 2014 and 88 in 2012.
Critics of the legislation point to countries where assisted suicide is legal and to the growing number of people using it who do not have terminal illnesses. Assisted suicide in the Netherlands has been legal since 2002, and an increasing number of patients battling mental illness have used the option.
Fifty-six people with mental illness used assisted suicide in the Netherlands in 2015, up from just two people the year before.
An unidentified woman in her twenties grabbed global headlines after psychiatrists and doctors gave her a lethal injection for post traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression stemming from a sexual assault.
Council members Brianne Nadeau and Yvette Alexander stood in opposition to the Death With Dignity Act, casting the dissenting votes.
“Those with least access to quality health care are most likely to get a late-stage terminal diagnosis,” Nadeau said at a committee hearing in October. “They’re least likely to have coverage for expensive interventions. I believe they’ll also be most likely to consider this option as their best option, even if it’s not.”
The D.C. Council will vote on the legislation one more time before sending it to Bowser for approval. Opponents say they will take their case to the House of Representatives, which could bar the law from implementation, if the bill gets final approval.
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