District of Columbia City Council Passes Physician Assisted Suicide Bill

hands - CopyWASHINGTON — The city council of the District of Columbia has passed a bill allowing for physician assisted suicide in the municipality.

The “Death With Dignity Act” passed 11-2 on Tuesday and was sent to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser for signing.

As previously reported, introduced by Democrat Mary Cheh, the Act allows for terminally ill patients—with an estimated six months or less to live—to submit a request in writing that they be provided with medication that will end their life.

“A written request … shall be witnessed by at least two individuals who, in the presence of the patient, attest to the best of their knowledge and belief the patient is capable, acting voluntarily, and not being unduly influenced to sign the request,” it reads in part.

The patient must also make two verbal requests within a period 0f 15 days.

“This law is designed to keep the government from taking away people’s freedom and liberty to make these fundamentally personal decisions in consultation with their family, physician and spiritual advisors,” Cheh said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

However, as the measure must also be approved by Congress, some are calling for legislators to reject the move.

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“We really want to share with Congress why this bill is so dangerous, that if they want to look at overturning it, they really need to understand what the problems are,” Marilyn Golden with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund told the Washington Post.

“[City council is] taking a huge risk that this doesn’t put everyone—very much including the poor people who make up so much of the Washington, D.C., populace—at very significant risk of serious harm,” she said.

Stephanie Packer, a California mother of four who has been diagnosed with terminal scleroderma, recently outlined in an online video that after her state legalized assisted suicide, her insurance company declined to pay for her new chemotherapy medicine, but said suicide pills would be covered.

“[W]hen the law was passed, it was a week later I received a letter in the mail saying they were going to deny coverage for the chemotherapy that we were asking for,” she explained.

So Packer called to ask why.

“And they kind of gave me this roundabout story, and I wasn’t really getting clear answers,” she recalled. “So, I said, ‘Well, what about the drugs they are using for the new [assisted suicide] law? … Would you cover that for me?'”

“And she says, ‘Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication,’” Packer recalled. “And it was just like someone hit me in the gut.”

She said that she is concerned that her experience will be replicated throughout states where assisted suicide is legal.

“As soon as this law was passed—and you see it everywhere—when these laws are passed, patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option,” Packer stated.

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  • Bradley Williams

    Welcome to the Oregon experience.
    Some doctors coerce patients. The following classic letter from an Oregonian is an example.
    “Dear Editor, 
    Hello from Oregon. 
    When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought). 
    To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. ‘Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her’ he said, as a clincher. 
    Now, if the doctor had wanted to say ‘I don’t see any way I can help you, knowing what I know, and having the skills I have’ that would have been one thing. If he’d wanted to opine that certain treatments weren’t worth it as far as he could see, that would be one thing. But he was tempting my husband to commit suicide. And that is something different. 
    I was indignant that the doctor was not only trying to decide what was best for David, but also what was supposedly best for me (without even consulting me, no less). 
    We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor’s office, and encounters with a ‘death with dignity’ inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they’d morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them. 
    It’s not a good thing, wondering who you can trust in a hospital or clinic. I hope you are spared this in Hawaii. 
    Kathryn Judson, Oregon”

    Doctors are human too. My brother had a stroke that left his right arm useless and his speech impaired. He asked me to contact his doctor to explain that he did not need the antidepressants that the doctor had prescribed for him because he was not depressed. The doctor’s response was “Would not you be depressed in his condition?”
    We trust our doctors but we do not want to tempt them with the power to coerce their patients to cut short their life with legal assisted suicide.
    All Oregon model laws and Colorado’s non transparent Prop 106 simply allow forced euthanasia.

  • james blue

    after her state legalized assisted suicide, her insurance company declined to pay for her new chemotherapy medicine,

    Insurance companies did that before. That’s one of the problems with for profit insurance, it was not caused by assisted suicide.and it isn’t a reason to deny people the freedom to control their destiny.