The latest push to legalize physician-assisted suicide is another effort by big-money insurance companies to brush aside people with disabilities and those with illnesses that are handled more easily and cheaply by ending the sick person’s life instead of providing expensive drugs that can help them, opponents to Delaware’s HB 140 said at a news conference Jan. 18.
“HB 140 has a lot of ‘whereases’ such as ‘Whereas the integration of medical aid in dying into the standard of end-of-life care has improved the quality of services by providing an additional palliative care option to terminally ill individuals,’” said Daniese McMullin Powell, Delaware disability rights activist.
“Really? There is nothing to prevent insurance denials for life-saving or improving health care,” she said. “There is no improvement. Palliative care is to relieve symptoms. Relieving symptoms doesn’t mean you have to die to relieve them. There are plenty of other options to take care of pain.”
McMullin Powell joined other people who have lined up to block the aid-in-dying bill being presented for at least the fourth time in the last five years in the Delaware legislature. House Bill 140 will be the topic of discussion Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. in a virtual hearing before the House Human Development Committee. 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.
In an alert to its members Jan. 14, the Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network of the Diocese of Wilmington encouraged members to reach out to their legislators to make known their opposition to the bill. The House bill argues that terminally ill patients undergo irreversible reduction in quality of life in their final days and only the patient can determine if his or her suffering is unbearable.
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, according to the notice from DCAN.
DCAN encourages members to click the link below to log in and send your message:
In a statement Tuesday, Gov. John Carney said he does not support the measure.
“I believe we should do everything we can to enable people with terminal illnesses to die peacefully,” Carney said. “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. Ultimately, though, I believe enabling physicians to facilitate suicide crosses a boundary that I’m just not comfortable crossing.”
“There’s no oversight. No investigation if anything seems questionable,” McMullin Powell said. “There is a greater risk to elderly and disability. Too often, the right to die becomes the duty to die.”
Stephanie Packer is a California single mother of four who was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2012 and given three years to live.
“I’ve outlived that prognosis and am relieved that I am alive to care for my children,” she said.
“Shortly after California passed a law to legalize assisted suicide, my doctors prescribed an expensive new treatment. When I asked my insurance company about coverage of the treatment, my request was denied. I asked if they would cover a lethal dose of drugs under the new assisted suicide law and was told that they would for a copay of a mere $1.20. I was stunned that much cheaper lethal drugs would be available to me rather than treatment to save my life.
“Fortunately, I eventually did receive the coverage that I needed. California was predicting that they would save money by providing lethal drugs instead of treatments. I’m constantly living in fear that with my next prognosis, treatment will be again denied in favor of cheaper lethal drugs.”
“My children need me. And as long as I can bear the treatment offered, I want to live. Please don’t place other mothers and people in Delaware in the position that I find myself in.”
The bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Baumbach, who initiated a similar push in 2019. Additional sponsors and co-sponsors include Reps. David Bentz, Eric Morrison, Gerald Brady, John Kowalko, Edward Osienski, Peter Schwartzkopf, Kimberly Williams and Sens. Bryan Townsend, S. Elizabeth Lockman, Sarah McBride and David Sokola.
“It can’t ever be this straightforward, black-and-white thing, because of how our government works, how business works,” Packer said.
“There were a lot of days when I just thought it would be OK if today was my last day,” she said. “But I didn’t ever want to die. And definitions don’t change, no matter how you word things. Suicide is suicide and that is something that I would never do and wouldn’t want to put my family through.”
“I’ve always been one to fight and push. And now because of COVID, most of us are consumed by this fear right now. These things shouldn’t be discussed while so many people are in fear of their life.”
People who would like to join the virtual hearing can find the link here: https://legis.delaware.gov/MeetingNotice?committeeMeetingId=22633