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Life advocates voice opposition as Delaware General Assembly makes another push for physician-assisted suicide

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John McNeal
John McNeal, director of the state council for persons with disabilities, waits to testify in opposition to Delaware's physician-assisted suicide proposal in early 2019. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens
Physician-assisted suicide legislation is once again before the Delaware General Assembly.

House Bill 140 “The Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Law” is expected to be considered by the Health and Human Development Committee of the Delaware House of Representatives on Jan. 19.

The American Medical Association and the Delaware Health Care Association oppose physician-assisted suicide, as do advocates for those with disabilities, and many faith communities.

Efforts on the part of the Catholic community, other faith groups, medical professionals, Saint Francis Healthcare, and advocates for persons with disabilities, kept this legislation from becoming law in recent legislative sessions. Advocates will do so again this year, and are asking for your help.

Here are some details about the bill:

  • The bill would legalize and normalize participation in the intentional taking of human life by physicians and advanced practice registered nurses.
  • This bill lacks adequate safeguards to protect persons with disabilities, the elderly, and those suffering from mental illness. Once lethal drugs have been prescribed, this law has no requirements for assessing the patient’s consent, competency, or voluntariness. Who would know if the drugs are freely taken since there is no supervision or tracking of the drugs once they leave the pharmacy and since no witnesses are required at the time of death?
  • The drugs prescribed under the law are so highly addictive and easily misused that they are put into the same drug category by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as cocaine, OxyContin, and fentanyl, to name a few. Each prescription would contain ONE HUNDRED of these pills, exposing our communities to a new source of addiction and lives lost too soon to drug misuse.
  • The law appears to limit eligibility to terminally ill patients who are expected to die within six months but doesn’t distinguish between persons who will die within six months with treatment and those who will die within six months without treatment. This means patients with treatable diseases like diabetes and disabilities requiring ventilator support are eligible for lethal drugs since they would die within six months without treatment. Furthermore, diagnoses of terminal illness and predictions of life expectancy are notoriously inaccurate.
  • Despite medical literature showing that nearly 95 percent of those who commit suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric illness (usually treatable depression) in the months preceding suicide, HB 140 does not require a psychological evaluation unless the prescribing doctor or nurse or the doctor selected to give a second opinion requests it.

These are just a sampling of the numerous concerns regarding Delaware’s HB-140. This legislation would set Delaware on a slippery slope and further degrade the value of human life before law.

On this issue, Pope Francis has cautioned that the dignity of both human life and the medical profession are at stake: “We must not give in to the functionalist temptation to apply rapid and drastic solutions, moved by false compassion or by mere criteria of efficiency or cost-effectiveness.”  The sanctity of life and the dignity of the person are objective truths and nonnegotiable principles of our faith.

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Will you help protect persons with disabilities, the aged, and the sick, as well as health care providers? Contact your legislator and urge them to vote “NO” on House Bill 140!

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