Bioethics Blogs

The Death of Aid-in-Dying in DC

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

I recently gave a talk to a local chapter of a national physicians’ health care group where I was talking about what end of life could look like under a single payer health care system. Several of the attendees were advocates of aid-in-dying and were hoping I was going to talk about that issue as well. I did not as there was so much else to talk about regarding proposals for health care plans to replace the ACA and comparing death and dying in the US with countries that have a single-payer system (In short, no one is great at it; we aren’t doing so badly in comparison, and having a single payer system does not correlate with having good end of life).

As of the end of 2016, 5 US states have legalized aid-in-dying via legislation (CA, CO, OR, VT, WA) and 1 had a court ruling declaring it legal (MT). Thirty-seven states have specific laws against assisted suicide. Twenty-three states currently have bills under review to permit aid-in-dying.

The supporters of aid-in-dying at the talk were buoyed in attempts to pass such a law in Illinois by the recent efforts of Washington DC in passing their assisted suicide law. On December 19, 2017, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an aid-in-dying bill that had been approved by the DC Council. Unlike states, laws passed by the DC government must be reviewed by Congress, who has a final say. Technically Congress governs DC and the local government only rules with Congress’s agreement, which can be withdrawn at any time.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.