D.C. to consider death with dignity legislation

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in D.C. will consider legislation that gives the terminally ill the option to end their lives.

The concept of death with dignity is controversial.

In D.C., the bill has been on D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh’s desk for years.

“I always wanted this to be something to get the singular attention it deserves, and I think finally the timing is right,” Cheh says.

She proposes legislation in the District to give terminally ill patients with six months to live the option to end their life with a prescription.

“This is giving the people the opportunity when they face a diagnosis of a terminal illness, they can have the option to get medication to decide exactly what the circumstances of their death would be,” she says.

The bill headed for City Council approval in the District is drafted off of existing legislation in Oregon,  where Cheh says not many people use the option made available to residents in 1997.

Diagnosed with brain cancer, Oregonian Brittany Maynard, 29, sparked a national conversation on death with dignity last year in a YouTube video describing her decision to end her life.

Cheh’s bill would require those who are seeking lethal medication to undergo a series of steps to evaluate their mental competency and diagnosis.

“No one is playing God. What’s happening is the individual has to be determined to be capable of making this decision, not suffering from any psychological defects, depression or anything of that kind,” she says.

Cheh expects the legislative process will take the better part of the year before the bill is made law in the District.

In Maryland, state Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick, announced he plans to introduce similar legislation this year.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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