Blacks Say DC Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Targets Them: “It’s Really Aimed at Old Black People”

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 2, 2016   |   1:20PM   |   Washington, DC

The District of Columbia City Council voted yesterday to legalize a deadly piece of legislation allowing doctor-prescribed suicide.

The Washington, D.C. bill, which would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients with a terminal diagnosis of six months or fewer to live, already has faced setbacks early in the process. Blacks in D.C. especially have become vocal advocates against assisted suicide, along with disability rights advocates, medical professionals, pro-lifers, religious groups and others.

The city council delayed a vote on the legislation in October after facing strong opposition. Even if it passes, it faces several more hurdles before it can become law.

The Federalist’s Cassy Fiano reports more about the D.C. legislation:

Some worry the bill is nothing more than a way to euthanize poor black citizens of Washington DC, a fear outlined in the Washington Post. While several states have legalized assisted suicide, the black population is smaller in those states, and black Americans are much more likely to oppose assisted suicide, much to the consternation of activist organization Compassion and Choices.

“They are afraid that somebody is going to take advantage of them the way they have been taken advantage of in the past,” said Omega Silva. Silva is a black physician who works for Compassion and Choices, which is trying to get the DC legislation passed. But while Compassion and Choices has been trying to reach out to residents of DC’s black neighborhoods, they haven’t been making much impact. At an outreach event last month, for example, only three people showed up.

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Leona Redmond, a community activist fighting the legislation, fears that poor, elderly black citizens will be targeted for assisted suicide. She notes politicians are more concerned with cutting health-care costs than they are with providing quality end-of-life care. “Because of Jim Crow laws . . . we didn’t have the opportunity to have the same jobs, to have the same insurance, the same retirement benefits,” Redmond said. “It’s really aimed at old black people. It really is.”

Black Americans are strongly opposed to assisted suicide. A 2013 Pew survey found 65 percent of African Americans and Latinos oppose physician-assisted suicide, while only 42 percent of white Americans do.

They have good reasons to be concerned, too. Andrew Bair of Beltway Right to Life previously described the bill, B21-38, as a “dangerous” piece of legislation that discriminates against minorities, the elderly, the poor and individuals with disabilities. He outlined a series of reasons why the bill is so dangerous, including increased pressure to commit suicide, a lack of safeguards and more chances for abuse.

For example, in Oregon where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, individuals have been told that their insurance will not pay for their cancer treatments but will pay for the lethal drugs to commit suicide, Bair explained.

In addition, “[t]here is no notice to family and friends; no doctors, nurses, or independent witnesses to be present; no tracking of the deadly drugs from the pharmacy; and no recourse for reported abuse,” Bair added.

Action: Here’s what YOU can do to help in this fight:

Call your ward’s council member as well as the at-large members who represent DC residents city-wide.

Send a letter to your council member.

Tweet the @councilofdc and individual members. Use the hashtag: #wrong4dc.

Share this video from the No DC Suicide coalition.