Back in 2019, when Representative Paul Baumbach’s End of Life Options Bill was heard in committee, it was not released. This time, it was. The vote in commitee was close, 8-7, with the only Democrat voting no being Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha. But I think it is likely we have some ways to go before this bill gets a vote on the floor of the House, or if it did get a vote, I think it still would fail at this time. Indeed, the bill is not on the Agenda today. But, the prospects for the bill are improving.
First, it is notable that the top healthcare lobbying group in Delaware, the Medical Society of Delaware, has stopped actively opposing the bill and whipping votes against it. It is now neutral. And previously neutral organiztions, like the Delaware Nurses Association, are now supporting the bill.
Second, what else has happened since 2019? Oh, I don’t know, just a global world stopping lethal pandemic. A pandemic that has made us confront mortality, quality of life and medical end of life decisions in a way that no one alive today has ever done before.
House Bill 140 permits a terminally ill individual, who is an adult resident of Delaware, to request and self-administer medication to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner so long as both the individual’s attending physician or attending advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and a consulting physician or consulting APRN agree on the individual’s diagnosis and prognosis and believe the individual has decision-making capacity, is making an informed decision, and is acting voluntarily.
|House Bill 140 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Baumbach, Bentz, Morrison, Brady, Kowalko, Osienski, Schwartzkopf, K.Williams|
|Townsend, Lockman, S.McBride, Sokola|
|Current Status: Out of Committee 1/19/22|
This Act also provides the following procedural safeguards:
1. No one may request medication to end life on behalf of another individual.
2. An individual cannot qualify for medication to end life under this chapter solely because of the individual’s age or disability.
3. Both the individual’s attending physician or attending APRN and a consulting physician or consulting APRN must confirm that the individual has a terminal illness and a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, has decision-making capacity, is making an informed decision, and is acting voluntarily.
4. The individual’s attending physician or attending APRN must also provide specific disclosures to the individual to ensure that the individual is making an informed decision, including the presentation of all end of life options which include comfort care, palliative care, hospice care, and pain control.
5. The individual must be evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist if either the attending or consulting physicians or APRNs are concerned that the individual lacks decision-making capacity.
6. The individual must complete a witnessed form requesting medication to end life and there are limitations on who can witness the signing of the form.
7. The attending physician or attending APRN must offer the individual the opportunity to rescind the request for medication to end life before writing a prescription for the medication.
8. Two waiting periods must pass before the attending physician or attending APRN may prescribe the medication to end life.
9. An insurer or health-care provider may not deny or alter healthcare benefits otherwise available to an individual based upon the availability of medication to end life or otherwise coerce or require a request for medication to end life as a condition of receiving care.
10. A health-care institution may prohibit a physician or APRN from prescribing medication to end life on the health-care institution’s premises.
11. A request or prescription for or the dispensing of medication under this Act does not constitute elder abuse, suicide, assisted-suicide, homicide, or euthanasia.
12. People acting in good faith and in accordance with generally accepted health-care standards under this Act have immunity, but those acting with negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct do not have criminal or civil immunity.
Ten US states and the District of Columbia have similar End of Life Options laws. It is an option given to individuals by statute in Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. It is an option given to individuals in Montana and California via court decision.