The Delaware House on May 19 removed from its agenda House Bill 140, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state.
House members in Dover heard from constituents and people concerned about potential passage of the bill that is opposed by various faith groups, medical professionals and advocates for people with disabilities. Removal from the agenda does not eliminate the possibility that the bill could be brought to a vote before the end of the legislative session June 30.
The Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network reported an alert on May 18 generated nearly 200 messages from voters to legislators.
“The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington along with a coalition of other faith communities, organizations and advocates for the elderly, sick and persons with disabilities have been working against various versions of this bill for years,” according to the alert.
“The Medical Society of Delaware, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, Saint Francis Healthcare, the Delaware Health Care Association (hospitals) and the Delaware Health Care Facilities Association (long-term care facilities) oppose physician-assisted suicide, as do advocates for those with disabilities, and many faith communities.”
The bill made it to the full House agenda after an 8-7 committee vote that split almost completely on party lines in January with all but one Democrat favoring it and every Republican voting against.
In a statement before the January committee vote, Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, said he would not support the measure.
The bill is being presented for at least the fourth time in the last five years in the Delaware legislature. The proposed law would permit a terminally ill person who is an adult resident of Delaware to request and self-administer medication to end their life.
Primary sponsor Rep. Paul Baumbach said at the committee hearing the “Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act” was named after “mentally capable adults who asked for this, but we failed them.”
Joseph Fitzgerald, lobbyist for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, has consistently stood in opposition to the bill. He said the diocese is “profoundly opposed to the bill. This position is rooted in the church’s belief in the sanctity of life.”
In a statement Jan. 18, Carney said the state should do everything it can to enable people with terminal illnesses to die peacefully.
“I know this is an extremely difficult and personal issue for many of my constituents, and I have sympathy and compassion for those who are grappling with these painful questions,” the governor said. “Ultimately, though, I believe enabling physicians to facilitate suicide crosses a boundary that I’m just not comfortable crossing.”