Washington, D.C. City Council Gives Initial Approval to “Death With Dignity” Bill November 2, 2016

Washington, D.C. City Council Gives Initial Approval to “Death With Dignity” Bill

The Washington, D.C. city council deserves a lot of credit after passing a bill yesterday that could allow terminally ill patients to end life on their own terms.

The Death with Dignity Act still has a couple of procedural hurdles to overcome, but it could become law in the nation’s capitol by the end of the month.


The Secular Coalition for America, which has campaigned in favor of the bill, was thrilled with the council’s 11-2 vote:

“We are thrilled to see an overwhelming majority of the Council move this bill forward,” said Sarah Levin, Senior Legislative Representative of the Secular Coalition for America. “So many of us have been touched by this issue, including several Councilmembers who shared their personal stories today.”

The DC City Council is expected to hold a final reading of the bill on November 15, after which it will head to Mayor [Muriel] Bowser’s desk for signature. The Secular Coalition for America and its local chapter affiliate, the Secular Coalition for DC (SCDC), has lobbied in support of the Death with Dignity Act and provided testimony at the bill’s hearing before the Health and Humans Services Committee in July of 2015.

This was an emotional vote for some of the council members, one of whom shared his own experience dealing with a terminally ill relative:

“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.”

He called his decision “my toughest vote in four and a half years in this body.”

If the bill passes, D.C. would join Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, and Montana as the only places where physician-assisted suicide is legal. It should be noted that the legislation would only apply to patients who are nearing death, do not struggle with depression, and request the drugs multiple times. (It’s easy to think people with fewer than six months to live must be depressed, but we’re talking about clinical depression.)

It’s about damn time. Why prolong patients’ unnecessary suffering if they’re ready to go?

(Image via Shutterstock)

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