DC Council approves 'Death with Dignity' bill

D.C. lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives with the help of a doctor.

The "Death with Dignity" bill was passed on Tuesday, and was approved earlier this month on an 11-to-2 vote. 

"I want to thank Compassion & Choices, which organized our D.C. grassroots supporters, without whom we could not have passed this bill. They articulated the urgent need for terminally ill residents to have the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying," said bill author Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3). "This law is designed to keep the government from taking away people's freedom and liberty to make these fundamentally personal decisions in consultation with their family, physician and spiritual advisors."

The bill will allow patients with six months or less to live to request lethal medication from their doctors. Physician-assisted death is legal in five states.

"This is a historic victory because D.C. is the largest and most diversely populated east coast jurisdiction to authorize medical aid in dying," said Donna Smith, D.C. field and legislative manager for Compassion & Choices. "It is a big win for people of every color who live in our nation's capital, especially African-Americans like me. Following the passage of medical aid-in-dying laws in California last year and in Colorado last week, these two states and D.C. have demonstrated the diverse, popular support across our nation for this option to die peacefully."

In the District, opponents expressed concern that poor people would be pushed to end their lives prematurely rather than undergo costly treatment. Supporters said those concerns were unfounded.