Death With Dignity Act
WASHINGTON — The City Council in the nation’s capital has overwhelmingly voted for a bill that would allow terminally ill people a medically assisted death.
That makes Washington, D.C., the sixth jurisdiction nationwide to approve what opponents often call “physician-assisted suicide.” The bill would legalize it for those who have six months or less to live, who do not suffer from depression and who request the option several times.
“It allows someone who is on death’s doorstep the option to choose a peaceful death,” council member Mary Cheh, the sponsor of the bill, said just before the Nov. 1 vote.
“To deny it to those who competently choose it is simply to prolong the process of death, to prolong suffering, to rob a person of autonomy, and in some cases to simply impose one’s own moral or religious choice on another person,” she said.
The council passed the measure 11-2 on a voice vote, with dissenters asking that their names be recorded.
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The debate leading up to the vote delved into a topic of profound moral disagreement throughout America. Many religious groups that believe death should rest only in God’s hands consider the practice sinful.
Opponents also fear that elderly, disabled and poor people could be pressured into agreeing to their own premature deaths.
Some African-Americans in what was until recently a majority-black city argued in the months before the vote that poor and elderly blacks in this quickly gentrifying town are particularly vulnerable to such abuses.
But several African-American members of the council, speaking before they cast votes in favor of the “Death With Dignity Act,” drew upon personal experience.
“My family had to watch him suffer,” council member Kenyan McDuffie, choking back tears, said of the death of his father. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody else.”