D.C. Council gives initial approval to a bill to let terminally ill patients end their lives

Source: The Washington Post

By Fenit Nirappil

The D.C. Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe fatal drugs to terminally ill residents in the city, making the District the sixth jurisdiction nationwide to allow the practice.

It is the first predominantly black community to legalize so-called “death with dignity,” overcoming objections from some African American residents.

A spokesman for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) declined to say whether the mayor would approve or veto the legislation, although he said Bowser “expects the bill to become law.” The council approved the bill by a vote of 11 to 2. Council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) cast the dissenting votes.

The council still must hold a final vote on the bill, possibly as early as Nov. 15.

Tuesday’s action followed an emotional discussion in the D.C. Council chambers, which was packed with supporters wearing yellow “Compassion and Choices” shirts and opponents wearing red “NO D.C. Suicide” shirts.

Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) lost his composure as he described the death of his father this year, pausing for 30 seconds in the middle of his testimony and excusing himself after the vote.

“My family had to watch him suffer, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else,” said McDuffie, tearful and his voice breaking. “But I’m not basing this vote today on my own story because there are thousands of other people throughout the district who have had the same experience. . . . This is by far my toughest vote in 4½ years in this body.”

Other council members described struggling to balance their religious beliefs with support for the legislation.

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