A Bill to legalise assisted suicide has been passed in Washington D.C., despite strong opposition.
The D.C. Council, the city’s chief policy-making body, passed the measure by eleven votes to two.
The vote came just a week after assisted suicide was legalised in Colorado.
The Bill is based on the first assisted suicide legislation to be passed in the US in Oregon in 1997.
It enables patients over the age of 18 to access lethal drugs if two doctors believe they are in the final stages of a terminal illness.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has the authority to block the Bill but has already pledged to wave it through.
The Bill is subject to review by Congress before it comes into force.
‘Unfair and unjust’
Ryan T Anderson, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said last month that allowing assisted suicide promotes a message “that some lives are unworthy of legal protection. That if you’re sick enough or disabled enough, you’re better off dead — and that doctors can give deadly drugs to you, but not to people with allegedly greater social value.”
Michael Scott, the Director of the Roman Catholic D.C. Catholic Conference, questioned the decision not to hold a public vote on the issue.
He said that citizens have had “their opinions dismissed on a literally life and death issue. This strikes many as unfair and unjust”.
In Colorado, serious concerns were raised after the “Colorado End of Life Options Act” was passed by 65 per cent to 35 per cent in a public vote.
As with the D.C. law, the person making the request for assisted suicide must be over the age of 18 and deemed to be in the final stages of a terminal illness by two doctors before they are allowed to self-administer lethal drugs.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that before the vote, people had been inundated with the message that it was about freedom and there were safeguards in place, “when the fact is when you look at the reality, none of that is true”.
He added: “If you have a medical condition you don’t have to speak to a specialist, you don’t have to, in any way, receive an opportunity to get the information that might change your mind” about assisted suicide.