Washington D.C., has always held its concern for the elderly and infirm as a point of pride. Subsidized housing dedicated specifically to low-income elderly people is scattered throughout the city. In an otherwise high-tax jurisdiction, the property taxes there are among the lowest in America. This is specifically so that elderly homeowners can keep their homes even if their assessed values skyrocket amid gentrification.

So it is dismaying that the District’s Council is moving assisted suicide legislation that will encourage and even put pressure on many older and sicker District residents, whose upkeep can place great burdens on their families, to end their own lives. The District’s bill would require those seeking to kill themselves to show that they have a terminal disease with a prognosis of less than six months left to live. More often than not, this will be an encouragement for older Washingtonians to shuffle off this mortal coil.

It is even more alarming that the council would willfully abet this corruption of the medical profession — which is the main reason the American Medical Association strenuously opposes such laws whenever and wherever they are proposed. Doctors are more than mere scientists with a license to meddle with people’s bodies. They have obligations to give care and health to those who come to them. Since ancient times they have taken an oath promising, among other things, first to do no harm. That oath also explicitly forbids their participation in helping patients kill themselves.

The obligations outlined in the Hippocratic Oath helps instill confidence in the medical profession, even as other institutions lose credibility. It was not without reason that the White House trotted people out in lab coats in a show of support for President Obama’s healthcare bill. People trust doctors.

The state sanction of suicide cuts against most of what government tries to do, and most of the life-affirming arguments that exist on all sides of politics. Governments fund and people volunteer to man hotlines to dissuade people from committing suicide. People in the pit of hopelessness, such as drug addicts, are encouraged to come forward and seek help. Only the most callous would cheer their deaths because they represent a burden on society.

Laws in many states allow the police to turn a blind eye to drug violations by those who call for emergency help when someone is dying from an overdose. Gun control activists call for limits on gun ownership, insisting that the number of gun suicides should be taken into consideration in limiting constitutional rights.

Many states legally immunize “good Samaritans” who happen upon accident scenes and attempt to save lives, because life is too precious to let fears of lawsuits stand in the way. The movement to limit or end the death penalty is increasingly crossing party lines. The preservation of life is repeatedly cited in support of policies that involve, for better or worse, more robust government involvement in providing or paying for healthcare.

In an era so filled with intellectuals and politicians who promote government as an instrument not only of preserving life but also of restoring hope, it is a dramatic contrast for a local or state government to say choosing death is as good as choosing life, and to propose giving doctors an explicit license to become accomplices in killing. Mayor Muriel Bowser should prevent Washington from becoming the capital of death, so Congress doesn’t have to do it for her.

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