Washington DC’s assisted suicide law hit a major roadblock this week, with a House of Representatives Oversight Committee voting to overturn the legislation.
The committee voted 22-14 against the law after hearing arguments from over a dozen lawmakers.
"I worry that assisted suicide will create a marketplace for death," said Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who heads the Oversight Committee. "I think it's fundamentally wrong."
The US Constitution gives Congress the power to overturn laws in the 68-square-mile (177-square-km) district. The committee decision, however, requires passage by both the House and Senate and signature by the president.
Washington DC council members were indignant at the decision, which they see as an unacceptable trespass of Congress into local governance: "I urge Chairman Chaffetz to allow DC officials to govern DC -- and focus on the more pressing issues facing our country”, Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement Monday.
The DC assisted suicide law comes into effect today, but it will take District agencies several months to set up the required process before terminally ill residents can try to obtain life-ending drugs, and the city has to identify funds for that project.
Winston Churchill was once voted the “greatest Briton of all time” in a BBC poll, edging out Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who?), Lady Diana, Shakespeare and John Lennon. Now, in addition to his gifts as a statesman and politician, orator and historian (and artist), we have been reminded that he helped to popularise science as well.
As reported in Nature, an historian has discovered an 11-page manuscript which Churchill penned in 1939 but never published, speculating about life on other planets. It turns out that the great man was deeply interested in modern science and followed developments keenly. Gazing at the gathering storm, he wrote pessimistically:
“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”
But despite the reminder that Churchill was a fan of science, it’s also good to remember that he believed that there were moral limits to science. In one of his most famous speeches, he foresaw dark days for the world if Germany were to win the War:
If we can stand up to [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world ... will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
Science, so Churchill believed, was fascinating, but not good in itself. It had to be governed by morality, lest it become “perverted”. It’s not a bad reminder for us, three generations on, as we enter an era of genetic engineering.
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U.S. Representatives Vote against D.C. Assisted Suicide Law