Death With Dignity

The D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved a “Death With Dignity” bill Tuesday that allows terminally ill patients the ability to obtain medication to end their own lives.

The council passed the measure 11-2 after approving the bill by the same margin in an initial vote two weeks ago. The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has pledged not to veto the legislation, which would make D.C. the first jurisdiction with a predominantly African-American population to approve a so-called right to die.

Read more: Why One Doctor is Fighting for the Right to Die

The bill is modeled after the nation’s first “Death With Dignity Act” in Oregon and would let terminally ill patients 18 years or older and with six months or less to live the ability to obtain life-ending, physician-prescribed medicine. Two witnesses have to verify that the patient’s decision is voluntary, and the medication must be self-administered.

Some African-Americans in D.C. opposed the bill claiming it could be used to target elderly black residents. Other groups like disability rights advocates and medical associations have historically opposed a so-called right-to-die, saying it unnecessarily devalues life and violates doctors’ Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

And California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, tallied more than 5,000 incidents of suicidal behavior last year. That’s huge increase since they began tracking these issues in the 2010-2011 school year, when just 255 incidents were reported. These incidents ranged from expressions of openness to suicide and self-harm, and acts of self-harm. Specific incidents of self-harm, like superficial cutting and burning the skin are usually not attempts at suicide, but the behavior does correlate with a higher risk of suicidal behavior. Studies of self harm are consistent in showing that people who injure themselves do so to cope with anxiety or depression.