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Death with Dignity in D.C.

November 18, 2016

Earlier this week the Council of the District of Columbia approved, on the second and final of two required votes, the Death with Dignity Act of 2015. The bill is now on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk; she has 10 days to make her decision. The Mayor has publicly stated she would not veto the bill, so we are optimistic of the bill’s passage, whether the Mayor signs it or lets it go into effect without a signature. Afterward, Congress will have 30 days to allow or disallow the bill from becoming law in the District.

Death with Dignity: In D.C. from Day 1

Since this campaign began nearly two years ago, the Death with Dignity National Center has been at the center of efforts to provide this end-of-life option for terminally ill residents of our nation’s capital. Indeed, we have been working in D.C. since Day 1.

On January 14, 2015, when Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced the Death with Dignity Act of 2015, her office requested assistance from us with shepherding the bill through the Council. From that point on, we have been by Councilmember Cheh and her colleagues’ side to get the bill passed.

For example:

  • We commissioned a research poll, which showed that 67% of D.C. residents support the law.
  • We sponsored Facebook ads and a petition to engage D.C. residents on the issue.
  • We accompanied Councilmember Cheh to an interview with Washington Post’s editorial board for the paper’s endorsement of the legislation.
  • We visited with several Councilmembers and gave testimony at a public hearing on the Oregon and Washington experiences as well as clear evidence to counter opponent’s fear-based arguments.

This year we redoubled our efforts as the Council continued considering the measure:

  • We have engaged supporters in the D.C. area to encourage the Council to support the measure and to call Mayor Bowser urging her to approve the bill.
  • We spoke with the Post again, for their second endorsement in September.
  • We have worked directly with Councilmembers, whether through private communications or conference calls, to give them the evidence they need to make an informed decision and debunk the opposition’s lies.

Our Advocacy, Our Leadership

Our work is not always on the front page or the evening news. It is the style of advocacy that seeks not to draw attention to our organization, but rather focuses on the movement and the behind-the-scenes political work necessary to move controversial legislation through the political process.

The real work happens long before the vote.

When Councilmembers need information they turn to the Death with Dignity National Center.

When the bill sponsor needs sound facts to put against the opponents’ soundbites, which are swaying hesitant Councilmembers, she turns to us.

When the Washington Post’s editorial board need a leading national organization to provide comment, they turn to us.

And we always deliver.

That’s what true leadership on this issue entails. And that’s what the Death with Dignity National has done for decades, ever since we campaigned for the groundbreaking Oregon law. In state after state we’ve delivered real data, real information, and real results.

What’s Next in D.C.

Now that our work in D.C. is this close to bearing fruit and death with dignity legislation is considered across the country, it is your unwavering support that has led us here.

Our work is not done. The Mayor has to approve the Act or at least not veto it, and Congress has to let the Act stand as well.

Please chip in toward our efforts with a contribution of $25 or more today.

We are grateful to have you at our side along the way and hope that you can continue to support our efforts.

One comment.

Edith C. Bennett
November 21, 2016 at 7:41 am

There are so many life events we cannot control but this bill allows us the dignity of an important civil right = an individual decision on planned death when facing death within six months as certified by 2 physicians. I hope that Congress supports the vote of DC residents . As a cancer patient and clinical social worker this would give me peace of mind to know I had the inalienable right of self determination.

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