More med­dling

The White House joins Congress in try­ing to block the Dis­trict’s Death with Dig­nity law.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

PRO­PO­NENTS OF the Dis­trict’s Death With Dig­nity law breathed a sigh of re­lief when a Repub­li­can ef­fort to block the law led by Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz failed. When Mr. Chaf­fetz later an­nounced he would be re­sign­ing his Utah seat, there was guarded hope the mat­ter would be qui­etly dropped. Then, a new low in fed­eral med­dling: Pres­i­dent Trump in­cluded a rider in his pro­posed bud­get that would prevent D.C. of­fi­cials from spend­ing lo­cal tax dol­lars to give their res­i­dents a right that is ex­er­cised in six states.

No sooner was Mr. Trump’s fis­cal 2018 bud­get released last week than it was de­clared dead on ar­rival on Capi­tol Hill. Un­for­tu­nately, though, it has reen­er­gized the ef­fort to nul­lify or re­peal the law signed Dec. 19, 2016, by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that makes it le­gal for doc­tors to pre­scribe fatal med­i­ca­tion to ter­mi­nally ill res­i­dents. The mea­sure, sub­ject of lengthy study and de­bate and mod­eled af­ter suc­cess­ful laws in other states, took ef­fect in Fe­bru­ary af­ter a re­quired 30-day con­gres­sional re­view pe­riod. Ac­tual im­ple­men­ta­tion awaits de­vel­op­ment of mon­i­tor­ing and physi­cian train­ing sys­tems.

Ms. Bowser has said the city plans to use funds from the cur­rent bud­get to de­velop the sys­tems, and health of­fi­cials said they would be up and run­ning by Sept. 30. The city needs to make a pri­or­ity of get­ting the pro­gram op­er­a­tional as soon as pos­si­ble. It would un­der­score the im­por­tance of the Dis­trict’s right to home rule and might make it a bit harder for Congress to undo, although given Repub­li­can an­i­mus to­ward the Dis­trict, noth­ing should be taken for granted. Mr. Trump once said he wanted what was best for Dis­trict res­i­dents and was even open to pos­si­ble con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the Dis­trict, but he has aligned him­self with Repub­li­can ad­ver­saries of the city. In ad­di­tion to the rider on the death with dig­nity law, the bud­get pro­posal also re­tains the cur­rent rid­ers that block the Dis­trict from spend­ing its own funds on abor­tions for low-in­come women and mar­i­juana com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

Med­i­cal as­sis­tance in dy­ing en­joys broad pub­lic sup­port and other states have im­ple­mented the law with care and with­out abuses. If Congress per­sists in try­ing to over­turn the Dis­trict’s law, it not only will un­der­mine home rule but also will deny to peo­ple with ter­mi­nal ill­nesses the com­fort of know­ing they have a mea­sure of con­trol over their deaths. Congress should re­spect the rights of the Dis­trict and its res­i­dents.

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