A D.C. Council member has introduced legislation that would make physician-assisted suicide legal in the nation’s capital for individuals with a terminal illness.
The bill, introduced by Mary M. Cheh, would establish a process by which a terminally ill patient expected to live no longer than six months could request medication to end his or her life.
If the legislation is adopted, the District would join five states that allow aid in dying. Oregon, Washington and Vermont all have laws in place that govern assisted suicide. Courts in New Mexico and Montana ruled that the practice is legal.
Under Ms. Cheh’s proposed legislation, the “Death with Dignity Act,” a patient would coordinate with a doctor who would verify the individual’s terminal illness, competency, and that the request is voluntary. The patient would have to make two separate requests for the medication before it was provided.
“I expect that some may oppose this bill on the basis of religious beliefs or moral principle, but there is latitude to recognize that all life is valuable while also respecting the rights and decisions of others,” said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “When death is imminent, patients should be able to maintain their autonomy and exercise self-determination in their final days.”
The introduction of the bill comes as the right-to-die organization Compassion and Choices is kicking off an advocacy campaign to promote assisted suicide legislation across the country. The organization is working with the widower of Brittany Maynard, who used lethal drugs prescribed by a physician to end her life in November, to lobby legislators nationwide.
A statement on the Compassion and Choices web site says the organization it is working with lawmakers from New York and California to introduce “death-with-dignity” bills this month, and that it has commitments from lawmakers in another 11 states to do the same.