A law authorizing physicians in the nation’s capital to help end the lives of terminally ill patients who wish to die went into effect Saturday after congressional Republicans were unable to block the legislation in time.
Washington, D.C., is now the 7th jurisdiction in the country to permit physician-assisted suicide.
Jessica Grennan, national director for political affairs and advocacy for Compassion & Choices, which spearheaded the effort, said the democratic process won out.
“The advocacy of D.C. residents and local officials is what won this victory,” Ms. Grennan said in a statement. “Democracy conquered the personal mindsets of paternalistic politicians whose opinions should not get in the way of people getting the medical relief they want and need.”
The Death with Dignity Act passed the D.C. Council 11 to 2 and was signed into law last December by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.
Under the federal Home Rule Act, a disapproval resolution passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president within 30 legislative days would have blocked the law from taking effect.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted Monday to send a disapproval resolution to the House floor, but it never received a vote. A corresponding Senate resolution did not make it out of committee.
The District joins five states—California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—where physician-assisted suicide laws have been legislatively enacted. The Montana Supreme Court has also ruled that the practice does not violate state law there.
Congress can still neutralize the Death with Dignity Act by cutting off its funding through the appropriations process.
Ms. Grennan urged D.C. residents to take advantage of the law before that happens.
“Doctors may now prescribe appropriate medications under the law without fear of prosecution,” she said. “We urge anyone who is eligible and considering this option to make the request of their doctor right away, since we cannot predict whether or when this right may be stripped away by Congress.”