Developing: Congressional Committee Moves to Block D.C. Assisted Suicide Law

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on February 14, 2017

DC

The Washington Post reports that a House committee has voted to block Washington, D.C.’s assisted suicide law from going into effect. In order for the law to be blocked completely, however, the full House and Senate will have to vote, and will have to do so by Friday because of a 30-day oversight window.

It is at this point unclear whether that will happen.

You may recall that we named Washington, D.C. a loser in last year’s roundup of winners and losers over this very measure. But perhaps that course can yet be reversed.

We remain firm in our conviction that permitting doctors to assist in the suicides of dying people is wrong and is a form of abandonment. The proper and compassionate approach to suicidal desire—whatever its cause—is compassionate intervention and prevention, not facilitation.

As a reminder, our documentary short film on the effects of physician assisted suicide legalization remains free to view online.

We will continue to monitor this closely, and bring you any updates as we receive them.

Update: A number of disability rights organizations have released a statement in the wake of this committee vote. It reads in part:

When assisted suicide is legal, it’s the cheapest treatment available—an attractive option in our profit-driven healthcare system. Terminal diagnoses and prognoses are too often wrong, leading people to lose good years of their lives. If one doctor says “no,” people can “doctor shop” for that “yes.” No psychological evaluation is required, putting depressed people in danger.

The highly touted “safeguards” turn out to be truly hollow, with no real enforcement or investigation authority. Assisted suicide is a prescription for abuse: an heir or abusive caregiver can steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and in the end, even administer the drug—no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? Many other pressures exist that can cause people with compromised health to hasten their death. Evidence appears to show that assisted suicide laws also lead to suicide contagion, driving up the general suicide rate. We all already have the right to good pain relief, including palliative sedation if dying in pain.

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