DC lawmakers approve ‘Death with Dignity’ bill News
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.