Councilmember Silverman's Statement on Death with Dignity Act of 2015

Unquestionably, this is a difficult issue. It is difficult for residents with terminal illness, it is difficult for their family and friends, it is difficult for legislators. This bill truly deals with life and death, and few bills in my time on the Council have generated this type of public engagement.

I have heard from many District residents and from people all over the country—and even received one email from Italy. People are very passionate about this issue and want to make sure we make the right decision.

I’ve listened to personal stories. I’ve looked at other states. I’ve studied the data to understand both the risks and benefits. I, like many others, am also informed by personal experience—in my case, a grandmother who had emphysema and lived her final days unable to speak or move more than a foot from her bed because she was hooked up to a ventilator. She couldn’t even hug her grandchildren.

I am voting in favor of the bill today. I want to thank my Ward 3 colleague, Councilmember Cheh, who has worked very hard to ensure adequate protections are provided in the law. Requiring the recommendation of two physicians, requiring the patient to request the medication a total of three times—with a waiting period between each request, and only allowing access to the medication when the prognosis is six months or less are all requirements that make me more comfortable with the bill.

I also want to thank all of those who oppose the bill for taking the time to express their opinions, especially Ms. Redmond. I appreciate their point of view.

I must say, however, that the majority of District residents I’ve heard from favor this bill. Residents like Nils Bruzelius, who wrote to me: I care deeply about this issue because both of my parents had difficult deaths.

None of us take this vote lightly or without significant study and consideration. I do believe we are doing the right thing for our residents when we vote for this bill today. And that is what I will do.