By Dave Andrusko
If there is a common denominator among the barrage of “assisted suicide” initiatives, it is the up-to-its-gills involvement of Compassion and Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society.
But there is another common thread: where these initiatives have succeed, it is almost always in states with mostly white, even overwhelmingly white, populations.
Which is no doubt why Compassion and Choices targeted Washington, D.C. with “The Death With Dignity Act of 2016.”
As the Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil reported this week, “Right-to-die advocates say passage in the District, especially after their California victory last year, would help break a key racial barrier in their national campaign. ‘We need to show that this just isn’t a ‘white’ issue,’ said Donna Smith, the Compassion and Choices organizer.” Smith is an African-American.
Right now the fate of B-21-38 is unclear. As NRL News Today reported previously, on October 5, the measure passed the District of Columbia’s five-member Committee on Health and Human Services, 3-2.
Action by the full Council was expected Tuesday, but it has been delayed until November 1. According to Nirappil
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has not indicated whether she will sign the legislation, although her health director has testified against it, saying it violates the Hippocratic oath. It is not certain that proponents have enough votes for an override.
The headline to Nirappil’s story is immensely revealing: “Right-to-die law faces skepticism in nation’s capital: ‘It’s really aimed at old black people.’” A recent photo in the Post of a rally of supporters showed an almost entirely white gathering.
“They are not people who look me,” said Leona Redmond, a 64-year-old longtime District community activist who has been organizing other African American seniors against the legislation.
The split, we’re told, on the council is not entirely white versus minority community, but largely so. Paraphrasing a long-time resident of a ward that is heavily populated by African Americans, Nirappil writes passage would “likely put the council’s relatively young, progressive members [read white] at odds with the city’s older black residents.”
The story is very helpful in explaining why Blacks across the country are the most against assisted suicide proposals. On the one hand, “Critics say the notion of doctors hastening death for terminally ill patients runs counter to religious teachings about the sanctity of life,” Nirappil writes.
On the other hand
Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death, said Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about the racial dynamics of assisted death.
“Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don’t think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous,” King said.
It is imperative that D.C. residents contact their council members and urge them to oppose B-21-38.