Delaware Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Reintroduced with Strong Local, National Support

72 Percent of Delawareans Support Bill to Allow Terminally Ill Adults to Die Peacefully
June 30, 2021

The Ron Silverio/Heather Block Delaware End of Life Options Act (HB 140), which would allow medical aid in dying in Delaware, was reintroduced in the General Assembly earlier today by Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-District 23).

The bill has the most cosponsors, nine, since its first introduction in 2017. They include: Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend (D-District 11), Sen. Sarah McBride (D-District 1), chair of the Senate Health & Social Services Committee, Sen. David P. Sokola (D-District 8), chair of the Legislative Council, Rep. David Bentz (D-District 18), chair of the House Health & Human Development Committee, Rep. Eric Morrison (D-District 27), Rep. Edward S. Osienski (D-District 24), Rep. Kimberly Williams (D-District 19), Rep. John A. Kowalko (D-District 25), and Rep. Gerald L. Brady (D-District 4). 

The bill is named in honor of two Delaware advocates for passing this compassionate legislation, Dover resident Ron Silverio and Lewes resident Heather Block, who both died in 2018 with needless suffering because they did not have the option of medical aid in dying.

The legislation would allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult the option to request and self-ingest prescription medication to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable. The bill has a range of safeguards, including a requirement that two healthcare providers certify that a patient has a prognosis of six months or less to live, and makes it a crime to coerce a terminally ill person into using medical aid in dying.

“Most of us who are sick do not want to die, we want to live. You only come to that point where you want to die is when life becomes unbearable,” said retired Wilmington biochemist Fay Hoh Yin in a video she recorded before she died last July, after suffering from incurable T-cell lymphoma for six years without the option of medical aid in dying, which she advocated for. “I’m so feeling so strongly about it because I witnessed two bad deaths of my loved ones, my own mother, and a very good friend.”

“I’m really proud of my mom, because she is, for me, the embodiment of people who wanna live, and if it’s

Fay and Monona Yin.

The late Fay Hoh Yin of Wilmington, DE, and her daughter Monona Yin.

important to her, to have some sense that she doesn’t have to suffer unnecessarily,” said Fay Hoh Yin’s daughter, Monona Yin, in the video (you can view video at bit.ly/FayAndMononaYinVideo). “I think every religion I’ve ever heard about could be boiled down to love, every single one, and kindness.  I think this bill [the Ron Silverio/Heather Block Delaware End of Life Options Act] is a wonderful expression of that. It is an expression of faith.”

The bill comes at a time when medical aid in dying has broad, bi-partisan support among Delaware voters. In a January-February 2020 survey by GBAO Research + Strategies, 72 percent of Delawareans surveyed said they support legislation that would allow medical aid in dying in Delaware. According to the survey, support for medical aid in dying in Delaware transcends many of the demographic, geographic, and political lines that often separate First State voters. Nationally, in April, New Mexico became the 10th state to authorize medical aid in dying, joining  California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C..

“This legislation will offer terminally ill Delawareans peace of mind and greater autonomy over their end-of-life journey,” said Rep. Baumbach. “Experience shows that, for most terminally ill patients, just knowing they have the option of medical aid in dying is a great comfort, whether they choose to act on that option, or not. Many terminally ill Delawareans want and need this option today, and the vast majority of Delawareans support medical aid in dying.”

“If a terminally ill patient asks for their healthcare providers’ help to end their intolerable suffering, prescribing aid-in-dying medication to help them die peacefully is part of our role as healthcare providers to provide the best possible care we can to our patients,” said Rita Meek, M.D., a retired oncologist from New Castle, whose brother Burton, died in January after voluntarily stopped eating and drinking to end his five years of suffering from ALS. “My brother repeatedly urged me to help him because he was in great pain, had no quality of life, and was ready for it to be over. The option of medical aid in dying would have gently ended his suffering.”

Both the Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Delaware Section of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have adopted neutral positions on medical aid in dying. The latter group’s 2019 resolution states: “We believe both patient and physician participants should have the right to freely and voluntarily follow their individual consciences.”

Unfortunately, Ron Silverio and Heather Block died without having the option of medical aid in dying,  something they both desperately wanted,” said Kim Callinan, President & CEO of Compassion & Choices, which is running the grassroots campaign to pass the Ron Silverio/Heather Block Delaware End of Life Options Act. “Since their deaths, three states, including neighboring New Jersey, have passed this compassionate end-of-life care option. It’s now time for Delaware to allow end-of-life autonomy for its terminally ill residents during their final days.”

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