Washington D.C. has given initial approval to a bill that would allow physician-assisted suicide.

The legislation, dubbed the Death With Dignity Act, would mandate terminally ill patients to consult with two doctors for at least two weeks in order to obtain the drugs that would cause the patient to die, according to the Washington Times. The legislation would also require two witnesses to substantiate the patient’s volition in the matter. 

“Now some say under this bill there will be coercion — vulnerable people will be hastened to their death, it will cut off lifesaving care, insurance coverage,” Democrat Councilmember and Death With Dignity Act Sponsor Mary Cheh said at the meeting. “These are baseless fears, and no matter how earnestly they may be held, no matter how often they may be repeated, they are without foundation. There are sturdy protections in this bill against the parade of horribles that have been trotted out.”

The D.C. Council approved the Death With Dignity Act in an 11-2 vote, according to the Associated Press. During proceedings, some of the council members expressed discomfort with the idea of physician-assisted suicide, but also said they felt more uncomfortable with pressing those views on the public.

“While I have strong personal feelings with regard to the creation of the universe and humanity, I do not have the authority to impose my views on others,” At-Large Democrat Counilmember Anita Bonds said at the meeting. “I will not take the liberty of even thinking for others on a matter of life and death. And because of this, I am at peace voting in support of this bill.” 

While the council will vote on the bill again before sending it to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the vote’s margin essentially makes the bill veto-proof, the AP reports. Bowser has not taken a position on the matter as of yet.

The bill would make the district the sixth jurisdiction in the U.S. to allow the act, which has also been termed “death with dignity,” the Washington Post reports. California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state have passed ballot measures related to physician-assisted suicide. 

A 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling pronounced that state law didn’t prohibit doctors in the state from fulfilling mentally-able, terminally ill patients’ requests for lethal drugs, the Times reports.

The final vote on the D.C. Council’s Death With Dignity Act could occur as early as Nov. 15, according to the Times.


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