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Advocates for life rise up as physician-assisted suicide proponents return to push their cause May 16 in Delaware legislature

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Once again, efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide are under way in Delaware. 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. The Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network says supporters of life need to work against it again.

The latest attempt to legalize physician assisted suicide will be on a House committee agenda Tuesday, May 16.

“You can play an important role by contacting your state representative to urge them to oppose this bill and to vote ‘no’ should it come before the House,” the group said in a statement.

The church’s opposition to this legislation, House Bill 140, also known as the “Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act,” is well-established and its opposition is rooted in the church’s belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of the individual, both of which are objective and non-negotiable truths and principles of our faith, the advocacy group says.

“We are joined in our opposition to physician-assisted suicide by many physicians and other health care professionals, hospitals, advocates for persons with disabilities, and many concerned Delaware citizens from a variety of faith and secular backgrounds.”

If you have sent your State Representative emails opposing House Bill 140 in the past and did not get a reply, why don’t you consider phoning them? Click here for a directory.

Additional concerns raised by the Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network are as follows:

  • The bill would legalize and normalize participation in the intentional taking of human life by physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and pharmacists. Participation in the intentional ending of human life directly violates medical ethics. It also creates civil liability and professional disciplinary concerns for medical professionals.
  • 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 insufficient requirements for assessing the patient’s consent and their competency to request a lethal prescription. Additionally, it does not contain adequate safeguards to guarantee that the lethal dose is taken by the patient voluntarily.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 administering of the lethal dose?
  • There is nothing in the bill requiring that the remainder of the medication comprising the lethal dose is properly disposed of. “Instructions about the proper safe-keeping and disposal of unused medication to end life…” is insufficient. These are drugs which have been dispensed with the express purpose of killing a person.
  • The law appears to limit eligibility to terminally ill patients who are expected to die within six months but does not distinguish between persons who will die within six months with treatment and those who will die within six months without treatment. We are concerned that this could mean that 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, the prescribing advanced practice registered nurse or the doctor selected to give a second opinion request it.
  • The bill would invalidate provisions in wills, insurance policies and annuity policies which are expressly designed to prevent the premature ending of a person’s life.
  • The American Medical Association, via ethical guidance which was reaffirmed in 2019, opposes physician-assisted suicide. This guidance can be found in Code of Medical Ethics Opinions 5.7.  Both the Psychiatric Society of Delaware and the American College of Physicians, oppose physician-assisted suicide.

“We need to stand together and urge our Delaware Representatives to oppose physician-assisted suicide.”

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