Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

D.C.’s ‘Death With Dignity’ Law Survives


After months of strong opposition from Congressional Republicans, Washington D.C.’s controversial “Death with Dignity” law has survived.

On Feb. 18, the 30-day Congressional review period ended without a joint House and Senate measure to kill. The controversial law allows doctors to provide life-ending drugs to some terminally ill patients.

D.C. is now the seventh jurisdiction in the nation with such a law, which will take effect this fall.

However, Congress can still try to prevent the measure from getting funded.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, vowed to stop the law, calling it “immoral.” The law was signed last year by Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Although Washington, D.C. functions as a locally governed community, the Constitution gives Congress authority over the District, partly because the centers of all three branches of the federal government reside there.

Congress has the power to invalidate any D.C. law with a disapproval resolution, but it has not done so since 1991.

Peg Sandeen, executive director of Death with Dignity, told Life Matters Media Congressional Republicans have no business interfering with D.C. laws.

“This issue was debated for two years,” she said. “The idea that people from not anywhere close to the District could intervene and stop it is just horrible.”

The new legislation is modeled after the nation’s first physician-assisted suicide law, enacted in Oregon in 1996. It allows doctors to prescribe life-ending barbiturates to dying patients with a life-expectancy of six months or less.

Patients must be deemed mentally competent and ingest the drugs themselves.