The latest from Compassion & Choices

More Than 70% Of Delaware Voters Support Current Legislation Giving Terminally Ill Adults The Option Of Medical Aid In Dying

In a recent statewide survey, 72 percent of Delawareans who plan to vote in November say they support medical-aid-in-dying legislation introduced in the state legislature. The Ron Silverio/Heather Block Delaware End of Life Options Act (HB 140) would allow a terminally ill adult who has decision-making capability the right to request and self- administer medication to end their life in a humane and dignified manner, if they choose. Survey results show that support for medical-aid-in-dying legislation cuts across nearly all of Delaware’s socio-political lines.

The survey, taken in all three Delaware countries between January 30 and February 3, 2020, also reveals that:

  • 77 percent of Delaware voters agree that “The decision to end one’s life must be made voluntarily by the patient, not by a relative or guardian, and not through an advanced directive.”
  • 77 percent of Delaware voters agree that “Health care providers acting in good faith and in accordance with the law to honor a terminally ill patient’s request to end their life would not be subject to criminal or civil penalties.”
  • 78 percent of Delaware voters agree that “An insurer or health-care provider may not deny treatment or alter health care benefits otherwise available to terminally ill patients eligible to receive aid-in-dying medication.”

The survey (memo linked here) was released today by Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit that advocates for expanding options for end-of-life care.

“These results show that, whether they live in New Castle, Kent or Sussex counties, whether they’re male or female, religious or non-religious, Democrat or Republican, the overwhelming majority of Delawareans believe that mentally capable, terminally ill adults should have the option of ending their lives peacefully rather than enduring needless suffering,” said Maria Spencer, Compassion & Choices’ Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager.

The survey offers insight into public opinion regarding Delaware House Bill 140 (The Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act), named for two terminally ill Delawareans who died advocating for medical aid in dying. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark North, in May 2019, the bill is now before the House Health & Human Development Committee. The measure would allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult resident of Delaware who has received a prognosis of six months or less to live, to request and obtain medication they can self- ingest to bring a peaceful end to their suffering, if they choose.

Among other conditions, the bill requires:

  • That two physicians confirm a terminal illness and prognosis of six months or less;
  • That the patient is capable of making an informed healthcare decision and has received information regarding all end-of-life care options, including hospice, palliative care and pain management;
  • That the decision to request and self-ingest the medication must be made voluntarily by the terminally ill individual and can be withdrawn at any time in any manner;
  • That the individual must make multiple requests for the medication: two oral requests, separated by 15 days, and one written request, which must be witnessed by two individuals. Similar to the witness requirements for advance directives, HB 140 requires that one of the two witnesses not be a family member or person who stands to inherit any portion of the terminally ill individual’s estate.

HB 140 also provides that the acts of prescribing, dispensing or self-ingesting the medication would not constitute suicide, assisted suicide, homicide or euthanasia; that the cause of death would be listed as the underlying terminal condition. This standard is consistent with how doctors routinely report the underlying terminal condition as the cause of death on death certificates. Finally, no terminally ill person, healthcare provider or healthcare institution would be required to participate in medical aid in dying if they don’t want to do so.

Commenting on the survey results, Rep. Baumbach said, “This polling clearly reinforces what most of us have already known. Survey after survey, nationally and in state after state, have shown that support for medical aid in dying is broad and deep; in Delaware, support for medical aid in dying is simply overwhelming. The survey shows that no matter where you live, no matter your party, your religion, race, age or gender, most Delaware voters want this option if they are faced with a terminal illness. The majority of residents from Bridgeville to Brandywine, from Leipsic to Laurel, from Wilmington to Wyoming, are waiting for their legislators to affirm their rights when it matters most, when they face their last days, and they are asking their legislators to support HB 140.”

Rep. Baumbach continued, “For many years now, I have spoken with so many Delawareans who cannot understand why Delawareans have fewer rights when they are dying than do residents of many other states, including New Jersey. Dying residents of Oregon for more than 20 years, when mentally capable, have had the right to decide whether to take medication to end their own lives on their own terms.”

You can read our fact sheet on these poll results here.