Right-to-die bill passes House

Would allow terminally ill person to end own life with physician approval
April 18, 2024

After nearly a decade, a bill allowing a mentally sound adult to end their own life passed the House April 18.

By a vote of 21-16 with four absent, the House approved the Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Law that provides guidelines for a terminally ill person to self-administer medication to end their life in a humane and dignified manner, if a physician or health professional agree the patient is acting voluntarily and understands their decision. Safeguards in the bill include requirement that two healthcare providers certify that a patient has a prognosis of six months or less to live, and makes it a crime to coerce a terminally ill person into using medical aid in dying.

The bill now awaits action in the Senate for final approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, the bill was first introduced in 2015 as the Death with Dignity Bill, which never made it out of committee. In 2017, Baumbach’s End of Life Options Act never made it to the House floor for a vote. He introduced House Bill 140 at the end of the legislative session in 2021, but the bill had no movement in 2022. It moved out of committee in May 2023, when it sat dormant until the recent vote.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, who was Speaker of the House while the bill made its way through committee, said he has waited years for this bill to finally come to the House floor for a vote.

“I only wish I could’ve been the speaker in order to have the deciding vote,” he said following the bill’s vote tally.

Schwartzkopf recalled how Block, a Lewes resident, lobbied for the bill after she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer which took her life in 2018. Following his vote for the bill and its passage in the House, Schwartzkopf said he wished it happened sooner after watching dear friends and family members die over the years without this option.

“My sister died in 2013 from cancer. It was brutal,” he said.


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