Friday, February 17, was the conclusion of the 30-day period during which the US Congress has the power to review and overturn legislation passed in the Washington DC city council. And, although the resolution to overturn DC’s wonderful new aid-in-dying law was passed out of a House committee, it was never brought to a floor vote in either the House or Senate.
That means that as of Monday, February 20, 2017, the DC law is in effect, and medical aid in dying is now available to residents of our nation’s capital. Hallelujah !!!!!!! But the fight’s only beginning, because (a) evil and misguided members of Congress could still attempt to block the DC law by denying funding to implement the bill’s requirement that every case be reported (even though it’s a truly negligible amount of money), (b) our victories in DC and Colorado have put our cause front and center and emboldened our opponents to try to reverse our state victories at the federal level (see a Feb. 15 article in USA Today), and (c) the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court represents an existential threat to our cause.
Eleanor Holmes-Norton, DC’s wonderful (and in a great injustice to the people of DC and the cause of representative democracy, non-voting) representative in Congress, says on her website: “Today we note our first victory in our battle to defend the Death with Dignity Act from overbearing and undemocratic congressional attacks. We kept constant pressure on House Republicans and prevented a House floor vote after the markup by calling out the 24 House Republicans, including two Members of House leadership, who are from the six states where medical aid in dying is legal. However, our defense of the Death with Dignity Act is only beginning. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and House Appropriations Committee Member Andy Harris (R-MD) have already publicly said they are looking to use the appropriations process to block or overturn D.C.’s purely local legislation. D.C. residents and local officials have shown they are ready to fight to defend our local democracy. We intend to win as we did last Congress when we successfully protected D.C.’s local anti-discrimination law.”
For an excellent defense of the DC law and a point-by-point rebuttal of the arguments made against aid in dying laws, please see a recent post in Bioethics.net by Professor Craig Klugman of our own Northwestern University.
Our special thanks for making this great victory happen to DC mayor Muriel E. Bowser, DC councilwoman Mary Cheh and other members of the DC city council, to hundreds of activists in Washington DC, and to the wonderfully effective leadership of the Death With Dignity National Center and Compassion & Choices.