DC Dying With Dignity law could still survive the Retro Republican Congress

By Donald A. Collins | 2 March 2017
Church and State

Ah, perhaps my earlier OP ED will prove, as Mark Twain once opined about his reported death, “Greatly exaggerated”.

That possibility was reported in my 2/14/17, Op Ed piece, How Death With Dignity Will Die In DC.

However, the salvaging of that DC law now seems even more possible as the 2/17/17 press release by Compassion and Choices tells us.

District of Columbia Becomes 7th Jurisdiction to Authorize Medical Aid in Dying
Death with Dignity Act to Take Effect Tomorrow, Sat., Feb. 18

The District of Columbia’s medical aid-in-dying bill, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, will take effect tomorrow, Sat., Feb. 18, because opponents failed to get the support necessary in Congress to stop the bill from becoming law.

The Death with Dignity Act was transmitted by the D.C. Council to the House and Senate on Jan. 6 for a 30-legislative-day review period under the Home Rule Act. H.J. Res 27, which would have overturned the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, stalled without a floor vote today in either house.

Though Congress could still vote to overturn the law or try to defund it, overriding D.C.’s laws becomes more difficult after they go into effect. Following is a statement from Jessica Grennan, national director of political affairs and advocacy for Compassion & Choices, the end-of-life choice advocacy organization that helped pass the law:

“Today we are celebrating that the District of Columbia has become the 7th jurisdiction to authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill people. The advocacy of D.C. residents and local officials is what won this victory. Democracy conquered the personal mindsets of paternalistic politicians whose opinions should not get in the way of people getting the medical relief they want and need.

“We will continue to monitor Congress for attacks on D.C. or any of the six other states where medical aid-in-dying is authorized: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. And while it is true that opponents want to defund and overturn the law, no funding is required for the law to go into effect. Terminally ill patients can now legally get medical aid in dying in the District of Columbia. Doctors may now prescribe appropriate medications under the law without fear of prosecution. We urge anyone who is eligible and considering this option to make the request of their doctor right away, since we cannot predict whether or when this right may be stripped away by Congress.”

(Photo: Martin Austermuhle / WAMU)

As the price of liberty remains eternal vigilance, we can only hope that the typical Retro Republican stances on social issues will not arise in this case, unless the intention of Congress is to thumb its nose at DC as my op ed earlier reported. Perhaps the leaders of both Houses understand that their margins of votes are too thin to endanger those votes further by ousting our current law.

More worrisome however remains the prospect of Neil Gorsuch’s likely installation on the US Supreme Court. He has written widely on his opposition to dying with dignity laws. Which could mean serious judicial endangerment of presently operative laws in the 6 states and DC mentioned above.

Stay tuned, Folks, as the likelihood of further attacks on enlightened social legislation such as Title X and the right to a safe abortion remain very much on the Retro Republican agenda. For example, the budget soon to be considered for new spending priorities which elevates military and infrastructure spending, likely will mean huge losses for foreign assistance and US social programs such as Title X.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
Kindle Store

DC passes aid-in-dying law for terminally ill

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