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Compassion & Choices and Terminally Ill D.C. Residents Advocate for Right to Access Death with Dignity Act at D.C. Council Budget Oversight Hearing on Health

Photo: Mary Klein and Stella Dawson

Compassion & Choices staff and D.C. residents testified at the D.C. Council Budget Oversight Hearing on Health to urge swift action to ensure that all steps necessary to ensure residents the option of medical aid in dying is completed.

“Our organization, healthcare providers and most importantly the patients who desperately need this option recognize that passing a law is simply the first step in making sure that D.C. residents do not needlessly suffer at the end of life, said Matt Whitaker, National Access Campaign Director, Compassion & Choices. “Without proper implementation, the very residents who spent their last months, weeks and days advocating for themselves and those like them may not be able to access  the comfort this option provides. Any hesitation and any roadblock that arises  can and will ultimately cause unnecessary suffering to the most vulnerable among us.”

“I support the [Death with Dignity] Act and its timely implementation … Because I cannot win this fight. The disease is terminal. When I only have a short time to live, and if I am in intolerable pain, I would like the option to take medication to have a peaceful and dignified death,” said Stella Dawson, who read the testimony of her spouse, Mary Klein, who has incurable ovarian cancer and is featured in a YouTube video about why she supports medical aid in dying.

The Death with Dignity Act will give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request from their physicians a prescription medication which they may decide to self-administer to bring about a peaceful death. D.C. residents support medical aid in dying by a 2-1 margin, according to a July 2015 Lake Research poll. The D.C. Council overwhelmingly voted to pass the legislation by an 11-2 margin on November 15, 2016 and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law on December 19, 2016.