Following the passage of local legislation, terminally ill residents of the nation’s capital are now able to obtain medication for the purpose of ending their lives in a “humane and peaceful manner.” Passed by the D.C. Council in November of last year and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser the following month, the Death with Dignity Act of 2016 has now gone into effect.
The law, however, comes with strict rules and regulations.
Anyone requesting assisted suicide must be 18 years of age or older. The patient cannot be suffering any form of impaired judgement; must be physically capable of accepting the medication and currently under the care of a physician. The terminally ill individual must have been given a diagnosis of no more than six months to live. Participants must be D.C. residents and the program is completely voluntary for physicians and pharmacists.
The request process is also extremely stringent. Patients must first make an initial oral request, then a written request and then, finally, a second oral request. Patients must wait no sooner than 15 days after the initial oral request until they can make the second oral request.
The District joins six states that have passed similar legislation. Euthanasia continues to become a more widely accepted practice in the United States and around the world.
While I find the implementation of assisted suicide in D.C. to be a sad affair, I also recognize this debate is not a mirror image of the abortion battle. The people who elect to end their lives are not helpless babies who have no say in the matter. These are adults who have loud and clear voices – and must make it loud and clear that they wish to end their suffering. I cannot even begin to imagine the agonizing experience of suffering a terminal illness. I certainly cannot judge anyone who wishes to end their life to escape such pain – I would never judge that.
With that said, it still saddens me to see euthanasia become more morally accepted by our culture. I feel this way because I am someone who became politically aware under the George W. Bush administration. I was drawn to Bush’s campaign theme of “compassionate conservatism” and wooed by his promotion of a “culture of life.” While the former president intended the “culture of life” line to apply mostly towards the issue of abortion, I applied it (and continue still) to all issues concerning the sanctity of human life.
This is why I believe conservatives should not just be hesitant about assisted suicide, but also stand against the death penalty. Our country should stand for life at all times. The young, the sick, the guilty – everyone.
Great advances in technology were made during the Bush administration that ended ethical debates regarding stem cell research – leaving morality and scientific research to stand together in harmony. We learned that science and a life-centered culture do not have to be at odds.
Instead of looking towards how to end life now, we should be looking at how to make life better.
For example, members of Congress made the heroic steps toward awarding permanent residency to terminally ill British baby Charlie Gard and his parents. The move helps allow Charlie’s parents to seek experimental treatment in the U.S. in an effort to save the baby’s life. The family is beholden to a socialized health care system that gives authority to bureaucrats on who gets to live and who has to die. U.K. courts have denied the family’s request to seek treatment in the U.S. They, too, believe Charlie should “die with dignity.”
Instead of following the example of the United Kingdom, our country can forge its own path. A path towards the promotion of human life in all corners of the political debate.
Of course, death is a destination we all share – no matter the strides in health care innovation. But the decisions we make in this life matter.