By: Allan M. Siegel
On last Tuesday November 15, 2016, the DC Council passed 11-2 the 'Death
with Dignity Bill.' If enacted, the law would enable certain patients
with irreversible, terminal illnesses to request and potentially receive
covered medications that induce death. It is a complex bill, which attempts
to draw a sharp distinction between ‘death with dignity’ and
‘assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide.’
In order to be an eligible patient under the Bill, it must be medically
confirmed by a licensed physician that an individual will likely die within
a 6 month period. To request a covered medication under the Bill, a patient
has to make at least 2 oral requests, separated by 15 days. The patient
must also submit a request in writing in the presence of 2 qualifying
witnesses. At least one of the witnesses must not be a relative, an individual
that will inherit any portion of the patient's estate, or a person
who works at the healthcare facility where the patient is being cared for.
The Bill has gone to Mayor Bowser for signature. Similar Doctor-assisted
death laws currently exist in five states: California, Montana, Oregon,
Vermont, and Washington. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.
are always monitoring such local laws and evaluating how such changes
may affect the rights and lives of everyday people.