Rep. Baumbach Introduces Delaware End of Life Options Act

DOVER – Legislation that would allow capable, terminally ill patients to use medication to end their lives was introduced Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, the Delaware End of Life Options Act would create a process and set of procedures for terminally ill adults nearing the end of their lives to request, receive and use medication to end their lives. House Bill 160 includes counseling, physician’s evaluation and a waiting period before medication could be provided.

“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 Rep. Baumbach, D-Newark. “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 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.”

HB 160 includes 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 person making the request may rescind that request at any time, and can decide at any time not to use the medication.

In Oregon, which has had a similar law in effect since 1997, few patients who begin the process actually proceed to receive and fill the prescription, and more than one-third of patients who have the prescription filled choose to never take the medication.

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.

HB 160 has been assigned to the House Health & Human Development Committee.