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Politics & Government

Bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide imminent

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Delaware Public Media
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State lawmakers could soon debate physician-assisted suicide.  A bill seeking to set up a process for allowing it in the First State is set to be introduced next week.

Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) is leading the charge, which is being opposed by much of the medical community.

No draft of the bill has been released, but details released Wednesday show that patients must have an incurable disease with a six-month life expectancy.

A patient would initially undergo a mental health screening should doctors suspect depression or another underlying mental health condition and twice request deadly medication with wait times in-between.

Baumbach says he considered making the mental health screening mandatory, but that he didn’t want people to be priced out.

“If we were to require the mental health consultation, is that going to limit the availability of this program only to those of medium and upper incomes? It’s a judgment call,” he said.

Those patients could rescind their request at any time, and doctors who choose to participate are protected from any retaliation.

The Medical Society of Delaware opposes the bill, saying it’s “fundamentally inconsistent with a physician’s role as a healer.”

“While many of the organizations may take stands against the policy, there are many individual physicians who are quite supportive," said Baumbach, noting that physicians are not required to participate.

If approved, Delaware would be the fourth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, joining Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

The bill is expected to be filed next Thursday.