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D.C. Law Threatened

Washington, D.C., residents can finally access the medical aid-in-dying option they voted in support of by a 2-1 margin in November … for now.

Representative Andy Harris (R-Md.) introduced a measure to repeal the law, and the House Appropriations Committee has advanced it. The measure must still be approved by the full House and Senate, as well as President Trump, before it can take effect.

Harris’ amendment passed 28 to 24 along party lines except for Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who joined the Democrats to vote against the measure. Newhouse comes from one of six states where aid in dying is legal.

“None of the members opposing our law were elected to represent our residents,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. “This is not a federal issue. This is a local issue. Members of Congress who are interfering with our laws must begin to realize what they are really doing: attempting to sidestep the democratic process to impose their personal beliefs on 681,000 Washingtonians.”

More than that, should this repeal go through and invalidate the D.C. law, it puts aid in dying legislation at risk nationwide — even in states that have already authorized it. So Compassion & Choices has been diligently trying to thwart this tragic overreach. Already, more than 2,000 supporters have contacted their representatives asking them to oppose the amendment. And a “Week of Action” planned for the beginning of August will hopefully help protect this hard-won right.

Not to be deterred in the meantime, Compassion & Choices launched a bilingual campaign July 18, the day after D.C.’s new medical aid-in-dying law took effect, to educate residents and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the option.

“The congressional threat to repeal D.C.’s law will not impact our commitment to partner with the Department of Health in a bilingual campaign to help residents access this law and to teach healthcare providers about the practice of medical aid in dying,” said Kat West, national director of policy and programs for Compassion & Choices. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that terminally ill adults in D.C. can access this end-of-life care option to end intolerable suffering, just as we have done in every other jurisdiction with a medical aid-in-dying law.”

“I do not know if I will use this option, but knowing I have it gives me an enormous sense of relief,” said D.C. resident Mary Klein, who has terminal ovarian cancer and wants the ability to choose medical aid in dying to peacefully end her suffering if it becomes intolerable. “I urge Congress not to repeal the law because it would be devastating to terminally ill D.C. residents like me who want this option.”