- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2017

Two of the District’s top officials on Friday voiced opposition to congressional calls for upending the city’s recently approved assisted suicide law.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser chided Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, both Republicans who this week offered companion resolutions to block the city’s Death with Dignity Act — for “attempting to sidestep the democratic process in order to impose their personal beliefs” on D.C. residents.

“Like Americans do all over the country, the residents of Washington, D.C., elect their leaders through a democratic process, and they entrust us with creating and passing laws and policies that represent their values,” Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, said Friday. “While the senator and congressman may feel passionate about this issue, it is my belief that there is no single political issue more important than upholding the core principles of democracy.”

On Thursday, Mr. Lankford and Mr. Wenstrup introduced bills in both chambers to block the measure. Under the Home Rule Act, any law passed by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor is subject to a 30-day review period during which Congress can vote to strike the law.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson also criticized the attempts to reverse the measure, which the council approved in an 11-2 vote.

“This is not a federal issue and indeed is similar to the law of several other states,” Mr. Mendelson said. “It has no impact on lawmakers on the Hill. This legislation solely affects residents of the District.”

The legislation would allow doctors the ability to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Patients must get the opinion of two separate doctors, as well as be deemed mentally competent to make the decision. Anyone who tries to influence patients into taking part in doctor-assisted suicide can be prosecuted under the legislation.

The measure would not require a doctor’s supervision when the medication is administered, but would require patients to take the medication on their own, with no help from another person.

Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana, Colorado and California have enacted assisted suicide laws.

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, scolded Congress, saying they only act when it suits them politically.

“They have taken themselves out of the business of running our local — and very successful — government and they should not suddenly jump in to block legislation on no greater justification than personal belief,” he said.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said “unaccountable members of Congress have no business legislating on the local affairs of our jurisdiction.”

Ms. Norton expressed specific frustration with Mr. Langford: “I have worked successfully with him on federal matters affecting the District, including reforms and improvement to the D.C. courts,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Wenstrup, a physician by trade, said the city’s law makes the federal government culpable for promoting assisted suicide.

“If Congress fails to act on this, it will imply tacit federal approval of physician-assisted suicide — and I firmly believe that is not the right path,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, earlier in the week said he wanted to block the measure.

But Ms. Norton vowed to fight back.

“We expected opposition here in the House to D.C.’s ‘Death with Dignity’ bill, as we routinely get opposition to laws passed by the District of Columbia that are at odds with views of members of Congress who do not represent the District,” she said. “I intend to fight all efforts to block the bill and to prevail.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide