The Washington Post published a piece on the debate happening in Delaware around assisted suicide bill HB 140. In the article, they summarize some of the stipulations in the bill:
“The bill states that any provision in a contract, will, or other agreement that would affect whether an individual could make or rescind a request for lethal prescription “is not valid.” It also states that requesting, prescribing or dispensing the lethal medication ‘does not, for any purpose, constitute elder abuse, suicide, assisted-suicide, homicide, or euthanasia.’”
With HB140, however, once the drugs leave the pharmacy, there is zero oversight – no third party witness to ensure autonomy, no medical professional present in case something goes wrong. Without some form of reputable supervision and process in place to document the way these deaths happen, i.e., who is present and participating, how can proponents write into law that deaths that would happen under HB 140 could not ever constitute instances of abuse, suicide, homicide, or euthanasia? In practical politics, this constitutes legal protection for anyone who wants to coerce an older patient or to slip them the lethal drugs themselves.
This is one of many issues with “safeguards” written into assisted suicide legislation. The point of this stipulation may be so the family of a patient who kills themselves does not have any kickback from their insurance providers because of a suicide, but it’s clumsy and reaches so far beyond that one point. Writing bills that include blanket statements like this one to deploy misleading euphemisms like “medical aid in dying” or “death with dignity” in public discourse puts patients at risk.