After the DC council approved the bill 11 to 2 in November, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the “Death with Dignity Act” into law late last month. The legislation would allow doctors to help end the lives of terminally ill patients in the city—that is, if it weren’t subject to the approval of congressmen like Jason Chaffetz.
This week, the Utah representative promised to use Congress’ seldom invoked but absolute authority over Washington, DC, to block the assisted suicide law, which he said he fundamentally disagreed with, according to The Washington Post.
“Assisted suicide is not something we take lightly,” Chaffetz, who chairs the committee that oversees the city’s laws, told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Since 1994, six states have allowed terminally ill, mentally competent adults to self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a doctor. All of those states, of course, are free to pass their own legislation, but all laws in the our nation’s capital must be approved by Congress, where the district doesn’t have a seat.
In 1981, for instance, Congress debated a DC law that would legalize sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex. Under pressure from televangelist Jerry Falwell, Congress ultimately rejected the bill. Sodomy remained a felony offense in the city for over a decade.
Speaking to WTOP-FM, terminal cancer patient Mary Klein vowed to fight for the right to end her own life if Congress tried to intervene, saying, “There’s a huge amount of anxiety around having an excruciatingly painful and not-dignified death.”
“It’s an anxiety my wife feels, and so do my close friends,” said Klein. “This is a matter of life and death. It’s up to the district to decide this matter.”
Chaffetz said he plans to introduce a resolution of disapproval by the end of this month.