On November 15, 2016, the Death with Dignity Act of 2016 was approved by the Council of the District of Columbia, 11-yes, 2-no, and on December 19, 2016, the measure was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser (Act 21-577). The Act makes it lawful for a person suffering from a “terminal disease” to request “that my attending physician prescribe medication that will end my life in a humane and peaceful manner” (Sec. 3(c)).
In his blog Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., stated that laws like that passed by the D.C. government “are not about allowing people to die, but actively ending life, that is, a license to kill.” He added, “What we are witnessing here is an effort to convince people to consider the sick and dying to be a burden to their families and society, and to regard their lives as not worth living.” For more information on the D.C. law, see: nodcsuicide.org.
The U.S. Congress had a legally defined 30-day period to disapprove the D.C. law. Resolutions for this purpose were introduced in House and Senate (H.J. Res. 27, S.J. Res. 4). On February 13, 2017, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted 22-yes, 14-no to report H.J. Res. 27 to the House floor. No further actions were taken. The 30-day period having passed, the D.C. measure became effective February 18, 2017, with full implementation of its provisions scheduled for October 1, 2017.
Five other states have passed laws approving physician assisted suicide: Oregon (1994), Washington (2008), Vermont (2013), California (2015), and Colorado (2016). For a critique of the laws with the longest track records, Oregon and Washington, see the Fact Sheet: “Assisted Suicide Laws in Oregon and Washington: What Safeguards?” at: usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/assisted-suicide/to-live-each-day/upload/Oregon-and-Washing-euthanasia-20131.pdf.
On July 13, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2018 Financial Services bill (H.R. 3280). During markup Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) offered an amendment to repeal D.C.’s assisted suicide law. The Harris amendment was approved 28-24.