The District of Columbia has joined six US states in allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
Although the District of Columbia City Council voted 11-2 to approve the “Death with Dignity Act” on 15th November and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law in December, it still faced possible defeat by federal lawmakers.
The Home Rule Act of 1973 gives the US Senate and the US House of Representatives a small window in which they have the right to overturn District laws.
Pro-life advocates and proponents for the terminally ill, the elderly and the disabled – who vehemently reject assisted suicide, saying it would lead to abuse and harm the city’s most vulnerable populations – had hoped Congress would act on the measure.
On 13th February, the House Oversight Committee approved a resolution to cancel the law, but the resolution never made it to the floor for a full House vote. The deadline for Congress to cancel the District’s law was 17th February. Since the deadline passed with no action, the law went into effect on 18th February.
‘A number of groups – medical associations, seniors organisations, disability rights groups, as well as the D.C. Catholic Conference – strongly advocated against D.C.’s prescribed death legislation,’ the D.C. Catholic Conference said in a statement after the law went into effect. ‘We will continue to advocate for a respect for life at every stage – from conception to natural death – and defend our communities’ most vulnerable, who require improved access to long-term health care, not an inexpensive short cut to death.’
Picture: A flag flies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh).