Doctors and pharmacies in Washington can now prescribe life-ending medications to terminally-ill patients, with the signing of The Death with Dignity Act of 2016 into law.
Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law in December last year. The Bowser administration has said it it now ready to implement the law in the district. The law would permit residents over 18 years old to legally obtain a physician’s prescription for medications to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner.
Persons with terminal illnesses who wish to end their sufferings, and eventually their lives, must work with doctors and pharmacies licensed in D.C. who are willing to prescribe and dispense the fatal medications. It is completely voluntary for doctors and pharmacies to participate in the Death with Dignity program.
But it’s not going to be a fast request, though, for patients wishing to die with dignity. Washington requires patients to first make two oral requests to end their life to a doctor, with at least 15 days interval between the two requests. A written request on a city form must also be given before the second oral request can be made.
Patients are not allowed to take the life-ending medications in a public place, according to the guidelines. The District’s Department of Health will oversee the program. Doctors and pharmacies are also required to report to the department if patients choose to receive their lethal prescriptions.
Assisted suicide has been a contentious issue not just in Washington but in the entire country. Supporters affirm that it brings a humane end to an individual’s suffering. Opponents, on the other hand, fear that a patient may be pressured into ending his or her life.
The implementation of said law is no guarantee of a certain future for it since a Republican-led House Appropriations Committee has a spending bill passed with a provision to block the funding of the assisted suicides. An amendment introduced by Rep.Andy Harris, R-Md., would effectively repeal the law.
The provision has to make it through the full U.S. House and Senate, and get the President’s approval before it can take effect. Republicans, of course, dominate both the House and Senate, while one sits in the White House.