Today the House of Representatives voted to strike down a new law in Washington DC that would legalize assisted suicide.
On December 19, 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed “The Death with Dignity Act of 2015” (Act 21-577), which would legalize assisted suicide in the nation’s capital. The bill allows an adult patient to request and receive from a physician a lethal prescription to end his or her own life.
Today the House approved a spending bill with a provision to nullify that.
The bill would also block the District from spending money to subsidize abortion for low-income residents; regulate the sale of marijuana; or carry out a law that says employers cannot discriminate against workers based on their reproductive decisions, such as whether to take birth control or seek an abortion.
Another measure would prevent the city from spending money without federal permission, what city advocates call budget autonomy.
Thursday’s vote marks the first time either congressional chamber has voted to repeal the District’s “Death with Dignity” Act, which Bowser signed into law in December.
District officials are watching for action from Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) who tried unsuccessfully to block the assisted-suicide bill earlier this year and is now chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee with jurisdiction over the District.
Lankford’s office did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.
Pro-lifers have long vigorously opposed legalizing assisted suicide. Five states (California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont) permit the dangerous practice of allowing physicians to write lethal prescriptions to certain groups of persons living with serious illness.
Where legal, as is the case with the D.C. Council action, assisted suicide laws permit insurance companies to pay for the lethal doses. Moreover, nothing in the law prevents insurance companies from promoting the relatively inexpensive drugs.
Apart from the danger of permitting insurers to recommend suicide drugs to seriously ill patients, the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-12 (Apr. 30, 1997), which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, strictly forbids the District from using funds for purposes related to assisted suicide.
While the D.C. Council bill was promoted as “merely” providing another end of life “option,” this law can become a vehicle to push the medically vulnerable into an early death.
The legal definition of terminal illness used in D.C. will sweep in vast groups of people who could otherwise live for many years with continued treatment. Additionally, there is no requirement that patients be screened for depression or other treatable mental illness.
More detailed discussion of the threat to life that assisted suicide poses can be found at www.nrlc.org/medethics/directkilling.