Delaware State Legislators Pass Doctor-Assisted Suicide Bill Sent To Governor For Signature

The Delaware Senate passed a bill Tuesday that will allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients who opt for it, potentially making Delaware the 11th state to approve such a measure if Gov. John Carney (D-DE) signs it.

The bill also passed the Delaware House of Representatives by a narrow margin, highlighting the polarization of the issue, which is legal in less than a quarter of the states in the United States. It would allow adult residents diagnosed with a terminal illness and expected to die within six months to request lethal prescription drugs from a medical professional, who would have to confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis before acting.

The bill had been hotly debated in the 21-member chamber, with some Democrats objecting to the bill, which passed by an 11-10 margin. Its co-sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Kyra Hoffner, voted in favor of it after declining to vote on it last week.

“I’m sorry that I did not vote Thursday like I wanted to,” Hoffner said Tuesday, adding that she had time to reflect over the weekend and talk to both supporters and opponents of the bill. “It has been a very emotional weekend for me.”

Delaware Senate Majority Leader Brian Townsend countered that assisted suicide is not about “eliminating” terminally ill patients but “empowering” them.

Republicans opposed the bill. State Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn said assisted suicide suggests that “some lives are less worth living” and added that the procedure is not supported by any major medical organization.

“Our response to suffering should not be to eliminate the sufferer,” Pettyjohn said.

GOP state Sen. David Lawson added, “How more despicable can we become?” in response to the bill.

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The patient would need to make three requests, two oral and one written, and wait 15 days after the initial request in order to receive the drugs and self-administer them. The attending doctor or nurse would have to wait at least 48 hours after the written request, which must be signed by two witnesses, before prescribing the drugs.

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