Rep. Paul Baumbach’s End of Life Options Act, or House Bill 140, was considered in committee yesterday in the House, but it was not released. Fortunately, however, it was not tabled. So we have more time to lobby for votes in the committee and to get it out of the committee and onto the House floor for a vote.
The End of Life Options Act is straightforward: it would allow those Delawareans who are terminally ill to end their own lives at their choosing without lingering in pain and suffering horribly. The bill states that those eligible (i.e. those patients who have a prognosis of six months or less to live) would only be able to get the medication if they are making an informed, voluntary decision on their own. No one would be able to request medication to end the life of someone else. Age and disability on their own do not qualify as a terminal illness and would not be eligible, according to the bill.
The bill provides many safeguards and obstacles to overcome in order to get the medication, in order to address both legitimate and disingenuous concerns of critics.
First, the patient would need their physician’s evaluation, plus confirmation from a second physician, to get the medication. The first physician would have to have primary responsibility over the person’s terminal illness, and couldn’t just give out prescriptions for the life-ending medication.
Second, a health care facility could prohibit physicians from prescribing the medication on its grounds.
Third, the physician would have to present alternative options, such as hospice care and pain control.
Fourth, anyone who requests the medication could rescind the request at any time, and could decide not to take the medication once they get it.
Fifth, the patient would have to wait 15 days after the first spoken request and 48 hours after a written request before getting the medication. The physician would have to offer an opportunity to rescind the request. The patient would also have to fill out a request with formal witnesses.
Sixth, if the physician was unsure whether the terminally ill patient was mentally capable of independently making the decision to end their own life, they would refer the patient to a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.
The bill would also protect against the denial of insurance coverage for a patient choosing this method of ending their suffering. Insurers would not be allowed to alter or deny benefits for terminally ill people based on the availability of the medication. Life insurance payments couldn’t be denied to family members of patients who get the medication.
Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia allow the practice. Delaware is one of more than 20 states that is considering such legislation this year, according to the Death with Dignity National Center, a nonprofit organization that supports the policy. New Jersey passed an End of Life Options Act this year, and Maryland considered such legislation, but it did not pass.
Oregon, the first state to pass such a law, reported 2,217 prescriptions written there between 1997 and 2018, with 1,459 people dying from the provided medication.
WHERE IS THE BILL? Still in the House Health & Human Development Committee as of 5/9/19
DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS – Baumbach, Sokola, Seigfried, Hansen, Kowalko, Osienski
REPUBLICAN SPONSORS –
YES VOTES –
NO VOTES –