The D.C. Council has voted to advance legislation to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in the nation’s capital. This dangerous proposal, modeled after Oregon’s law, threatens the most vulnerable in the District, including the elderly, those with disabilities and the chronically ill.
As the Washington Post reported, the proposal has also drawn skepticism from members of the black community. Longtime District community activist Leona Redmond noted, “It’s really aimed at old black people.”
Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death, said Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about the racial dynamics of assisted death. “Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don’t think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous,” King said.
The effects of the legalization of doctor-prescribed suicide in other states on the medical profession have been devastating. In California, for instance, the law recently prompted an insurance company to deny needed cancer treatment to a patient and to instead offer to cover the cost of the patient’s suicide.
Similar abuses have been reported in Oregon (See: Barbara Wagner’s story) and other states that have given doctor-prescribed suicide the green light.
Earlier this year, the D.C. Council passed legislation to tackle teen suicide and bullying. Yet now, the Council has sent a message that suicide is permissible if the person is deemed to have a lesser quality of life because of a terminal diagnosis. (Even though terminal diagnoses are proven inaccurate time and time again.) This lethal form of discrimination is unconscionable.
The fight is not over! All concerned D.C. residents should contact Mayor Muriel Bowser and urge her to veto B21-38: (202) 727-2643.
For more information, check out the No DC Suicide coalition: http://nodcsuicide.org/