Delaware state Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) introduced legislation Tuesday that would create a path for terminally ill patients to obtain medication to end their lives.
The End of Life Options Act would create a set of procedures for adults to request the medication they could use to end their life, but only after receiving or passing counseling, a physician's evaluation, and a waiting period.
"This is a very delicate matter, which requires great sensitivity and care. The sensitivity of this issue, however, should not prevent us from addressing and discussing the need for this legislation," said Baumbach. "This is an issue about allowing adults facing a terminal illness to make critical decisions about their life. Many people in the last stages of life wish to retain their dignity, including the ability to make decisions regarding their life and their suffering."
The bill, HB160, would review 'several steps a person must take before receiving medication to end his or her life, including: presentation of all end of life options which include comfort care, hospice care, and pain control; a physician’s evaluation; medical confirmation by a second physician; psychiatric/psychological counseling when indicated; passage of two waiting periods; and the completion of a formally witnessed request for prescribed medication," a release detailing the bill said.
Any request an also be rescinded a any time, and any person requesting the medicine can decide at any point not to use it.
"The Delaware End of Life Options Act provides terminally ill adults an additional option to decide whether they wish to lessen their pain and suffering. But it is not a decision that they can make haphazardly, or without numerous safeguards."
Baumbach cited a similar law passed in Oregon in 1997, where few patients who began the process ever completed the steps to the point of filling the prescription, and more than a third who did chose to never take it.
"Under the bill, a patient wishing to utilize this process must have “an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment” result in their death within six months," the release said. The bill next heads to the House Health & Human Development Committee.