Del. House Panel Advances Medical-Aid-In-Dying Bill

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A bill to allow terminally ill people in Delaware to end their lives with a doctor’s assistance has passed a House committee.

The panel heard nearly three hours of testimony Wednesday from people mostly in favor of the measure, House Bill 140, which has also been brought up in various forms several times. Under the proposal, mentally capable adults who are given a terminal diagnosis would be able to obtain prescription medication that they could take if it reaches the point that they would like to end their suffering and not die in agony.

Brenda Ross of Lewes addressed the panel and detailed her late husband Paul Skillin’s battle with metastatic prostate cancer. He passed away last April.

“Paul told his doctors that he was tired of the uncontrollable and increasing pain and was ready to die. Without the option of medical aid in dying, his only legal recourse was to undergo an agonizing weeks-long process of stopping eating and drinking. For Paul, VSED was preferable to prolonging nights and days of unceasing pain. It was torture for him and for me,” Ross said.

Representative Paul Baumbach, D-Newark is the sponsor of the bill, which passed the House Health and Human Development Committee 8-7 for a future vote on the House floor. There was some opposition and concern expressed about the bill Wednesday.

Mostly, there was support.

“My 30-plus years as a physician did not prepare me for the recent death of my wife who suffered during the last 3 months of her life in spite of the best hospice and palliative care. HB 140 will give me peace of mind knowing medical aid in dying can be an end-of-life option for myself, my family and my patients who request it,” Medical Society of Delaware President-Elect Dr. Robert Varipapa of Dover, a neorology specialist, said. “After much work with leadership, I am proud to report that the Medical Society of Delaware has recently withdrawn its historic opposition to medical aid in dying.”

“My husband, Paul Skillin, died slowly and painfully from metastatic prostate cancer last April,” Ross stated. “If medical aid in dying were an option, he would have chosen it and could have avoided the torture of his last weeks. We would have shared his favorite meal, listened to his favorite music, I would have kissed him goodnight, and he would have fallen asleep.”

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