D.C. Assisted Suicide Law

Assisted suicide, also known as physician-assisted suicide, is when a terminally ill person chooses to end his/her life by taking lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor. These patients often have received the news that they have less than six months to live.

Ethics and morality play a huge part in this debate. According to an organization called Not Dead Yet, people who oppose assisted suicide view it as a crime and a form of discrimination. Many also question whether terminally ill people are able to make a fully conscious decision to end their life. Supporters of assisted suicide view this as empowering to the patient.

They say that giving them a choice of when and how to end their lives allows terminally ill patients to “die with dignity” rather than spending their last day, even months, suffering due to their illness.

On Dec. 19, 2016, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. signed Bill 21-38 making assisted suicide legal. Many people spoke out about their disagreement with the bill. The “No D.C. Suicide” campaign began while lawmakers were still debating. This campaign claims the bill is discriminatory because it targets poor and vulnerable people.

According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to block legislation by D.C.’s council. On Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) from Utah, voted 22-14 to disapprove the law passed in December 2016. The next step was to pass a resolution between the full House and Senate and send it to President Trump.

After intense debates and campaigns for both sides of the issue, on Feb. 17, 2017, Washington, D.C. became the sixth place in the United States to legalize assisted suicide as the full House did not vote to disapprove this law. However, this does not mean the disagreements are over.

House Republicans are seeking, or more appropriately threatening, to roll back some of the laws recently passed, using a constitutional muscle that allows them to change policies in D.C. Although it failed, they have already used this method to try to dismiss the law making assisted suicide legal. They say that they plan to use that power to roll back everything from D.C.’s gun laws to the legalization of marijuana. At this moment nothing else is known about any other moves planned by House Republicans.

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