Delaware Public Media

MSD will continue to use the term "physician-assisted suicide"

Nov 20, 2017

The Medical Society of Delaware is deciding to continue its policy opposing what they term as physician-assisted suicide, but some, including state legislators, want them to use the name—and support the practice of—medical aid in dying.

There is a bill on the ready list for vote in the Delaware House of Representatives which would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it. The proposed law would require a second opinion on the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live, verification the patient is of sound mind and body, and the lethal prescription must be self-administered.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Paul Baumbach (D-Newark), says he is disappointed Delaware’s Medical Society will not endorse the bill. He adds using the term “physician-assisted suicide” is misleading.

“If I were to be in a bad state and want to jump off a roof, that’s suicide. If I’m dying of pancreatic cancer and I’ve got between zero and five days to live, and I get a prescription filled by a doctor—a written prescription and I fill it and take it—that’s not suicide, I’m dying of pancreatic cancer,” said Baumbach.

The bill is largely patterned after a law in Oregon which does not require doctors to participate in the aid in dying program.

Medical Society of Delaware officials say physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with their role as physicians and healers, but the conversation is ongoing.

“Yes, it’s ongoing, not only in the medical society, but across the country in every state where it has been introduced and where it will be introduced moving forward. It’s an important discussion to have,” said MSD President-elect Dr. Richard Henderson.