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DC lawmakers approve 'Death with Dignity' bill

[JURIST] In an 11-2 vote [legislative history] on Tuesday the District of Columbia Council [official website] approved a "Death with Dignity" bill [text, PDF] that would allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives with a physician's help. Under the bill, a patient that is terminally ill, a resident of DC, at least 18 years old and still capable of rendering their own health care decisions may submit a request to terminate their life by following the guidelines established by the bill. The bill does not obligate physicians to approve a patient's requests and bars physicians from approving treatment to patients they believe to be depressed or suffering from other psychological disorders that may impair a patient's judgment. The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser [official website] for final approval.

The DC bill is similar to previously passed measures, beginning in 1997 with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act [official materials]. The Oregon law was upheld [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court in 2006. In 2008 the Montana First Judicial District ruled [JURIST report] that physicians cannot be prosecuted under state statutes for providing prescriptions for lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Washington state also approved a similar lethal prescription ballot initiative in 2008, and the Vermont legislature approved legislation [JURIST reports] in 2013. In August the California Superior Court rejected a challenge [JURIST report] to the state's recently enacted aid in dying law [text]. Colorado also recently voted in Proposition 106 [JURIST report], which granted terminally ill adult patients to right to self-administer lethal drugs after receiving approval from two physicians.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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