The D.C. Council will take their final vote on the “Death with Dignity” bill that legalizes assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in the District.
The legislation is expected to pass and will then be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser for final approval. The Council voted 11-2 to approve the “right to die” legislation in early November, a veto-proof margin, but Bowser already said she will not veto the measure if it passes. Many black residents in the city oppose the legislation, fearing it will be abused on racial lines, reports WJLA.
Various citizens are concerned the law may pressure low-income individuals with limited health care options into requesting the lethal medication. Critics of the bill vow to continue to fight its implementation and are prepared to take their case to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which could bar the law from implementation.
“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 in early November. “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.
Critics of the legislation cite alarming statistics in places like Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide in 1994, and Washington state, which passed their own measure in 2008.
“The annual number of people taking their lives under the Oregon law is now eight times what it was in the law’s first full year of operation,” Richard Doerflinger, with the The Witherspoon Institute, wrote in a recent editorial. “In Washington state, the number has tripled in only seven years. Now this agenda is moving to D.C., where half the population is black and there are great inequities between the affluent and the urban poor.”
Council Members Brianne Nadeau and Yvette Alexander stand in opposition to the Death With Dignity Act, casting the only dissenting votes at the initial hearing.
“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.”
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