Lawmakers approving what the people oppose

Lawmakers approving what the people oppose

Lawmakers approving what the people oppose

Delaware is on track to becoming the next state to allow terminally ill residents to seek help in ending their own lives.

The Delaware House has narrowly passed a bill that would permit people with an estimated six months or less to live to die via assisted suicide. Such patients could request lethal prescription drugs from a doctor or advanced practice registered nurse who has primary responsibility for the terminal illness. A consulting physician or nurse would then have to confirm the diagnosis and prognosis of the patient, who must have "decision-making capacity."

"The irony is when it was being heard in the House, there were two Democratic representatives who stood up and said that their communication from their constituency was running well opposed to this legislation," accounts Delaware Right to Life's Moira Sheridan, who was there for the vote.

Even so, the House approved it.

Republican Rep. Kevin Hensley of Townsend, who voted against the proposal in previous legislative sessions, was among those who voted for it this time.

"I did not get confused," he assured his fellow lawmakers, saying his perspective on the issue changed after his mother, who lived in California, opted for physician-assisted suicide a year ago.

Pending a miracle, Sheridan expects the Delaware Senate to handily approve the measure, as Democrats have a super majority there. It will then require the signature of Governor John Carney (D), who is term limited, to go into law.

"He has expressed opposition to the bill, intimating that he would not sign it," Sheridan notes. "But I think that he's got nothing to lose. He's stepping off, and I think he'll do what his party wants him to do and get this bill through."

If it does, a patient seeking assisted suicide would have to be evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist if any of the medical professionals involved is concerned that he or she lacks decision-making capacity. For now, age or disability alone would not qualify a person for doctor-assisted suicide.

A qualifying patient would have to make two oral requests for a lethal prescription, followed by a written request, and would have to wait at least 15 days after the initial request before receiving the drugs. The attending doctor or nurse would have to wait at least 48 hours after the written request, which must be signed by two witnesses, before prescribing the drugs.

If the bill does go into law, then Delaware will be the 11th state – plus the District of Columbia – to legalize the killing of terminally ill patients. But few expect the effort to stop with ailing people.