America's autonomous capital district approves Oregon-style assisted suicide legislation
Part of neither Maryland nor Virginia, the District of Columbia is effectively the 51st US state. It has this month followed Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California in legislating for assisted suicide. Washington's 13-member council represents fewer than 700,000 people (comparable with Vermont), and they have used their limited powers to follow the troubled path of their west-coast namesake. (*DC, not being a state, is overseen directly by the US Congress.)
The vote on 1 November was carried by 11-2, and must be followed by a second vote confirming the council's approval. The Washington Post says this vote may come as soon as 15 November, and reports that
'chances for enactment are unclear... Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has not indicated whether she will sign the legislation, although her health director has testified against it, saying it violates the Hippocratic Oath... Congress could also strike down the legislation; a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D Ryan (R-Wis.) did not answer requests for comment.
'Although the law has been enacted in a handful of states with a mostly white population, it faces particular opposition in the nation's capital, home to a large African American community. In national surveys, African Americans have consistently stood against assisted suicide.
'Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death, said Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about the racial dynamics of assisted death.
'"Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don't think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous," King said.
'Some worry that blacks, who tend to have less access to treatment and preventive care, may think that ending their lives early is their best option when given a terminal diagnosis.'
DC residents who have campaigned against the measure say they will push for Congress to strike it down.
The move by District representatives comes as the people of Colorado prepare to vote on 8 November regarding proposition 106 - the 'End of Life Options Act' - which would also provide for assisted suicide in the spirit of Oregon et al.
As the evidence from Oregon shows, legalising assisted suicide is dangerous, unethical and unnecessary.
Last year's reported 132 assisted suicides represented a 24.4% rise on 2014. 218 prescriptions were made out last year, by a total of 106 physicians - up to 27 prescriptions each. That balances out to at least one a fortnight. Just five patients (3.8%) were referred for psychiatric evaluation prior to assisted suicide. Less than 29% of 2015 'participants' cited inadequate pain control as a reason, while almost half said they didn't want to be a burden on family, friends/caregivers (48.1%, up on 40% in 2014). Meanwhile, the well-publicised cases of patients being denied expensive treatments but offered assisted suicide have been replicated already in California. It is small wonder that many Oregon doctors regret the state's adoption of assisted suicide.