The D.C. Death with Dignity Act authorizes medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying is a safe and trusted medical practice in which a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live may request from his or her doctor a prescription for medication which they can choose to self-ingest to bring about a peaceful death. The law went into effect in February 2017.
How Do I Access a Prescription?
To be eligible for medical aid in dying under Washington, D.C.’s law, a person must be:
- An adult
- Terminally ill
- Given a prognosis of six months or less to live
- Mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions
A person must also be:
- A resident of Washington, D.C.
- Acting voluntarily
- Making an informed decision that includes being given information about all other end-of-life options
- Informed that they may choose to obtain the aid-in-dying prescription but not take it
- Capable of self-administering and ingesting the aid-in-dying drug
In addition to the requirements listed above, certain steps must be followed in order for a person to qualify for aid-in-dying medication. The average length of time between requesting and receiving a prescription is between 15 days to three months and requires at least two doctor visits. Therefore, it is important for individuals to talk to their doctors early to see whether the doctor is willing to write a prescription. We encourage everyone to begin this conversation now.
Where Can I Learn More?
For D.C. residents:
D.C. Introduction to Medical Aid in Dying: coming soon
For more information on the full range of end-of-life options visit the Compassion & Choices End of-Life-Information Center.
About Compassion & Choices
Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice for the end of life.