The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a death with dignity bill Tuesday.
The measure would give limited rights for terminally ill persons with less than six months to live to take drugs to end their lives.
Supporters of the bill wore yellow shirts in the Council chamber, while opponents wore red.
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“If you want to give me dignity, give it to me while I live,” opponent Leona Redmond said.
The Council passed the bill 11-2 on a preliminary vote. That was good news for Sally Epstein, 91, who wants to control her life to the end.
“I say that everybody should have a choice,” she said. “I'm not telling them they should do something, and they should not tell me that I should do something.”
Opponents expressed concern that lower-income residents would be pushed to end their lives prematurely rather than undergo costly treatment. Supporters said the bill, which goes to a second vote in two weeks, has safeguards against family or medical abuse.
Councilmember Yvette Alexander voted no and said citizens should have more of a say.
“I think with this particular issue, it would be fitting that we would take it to the voters of the District of Columbia with regard to a ballot issue,” she said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has not taken a position on the bill.
Physician-assisted death is legal in five states, and several others are considering legislation.