Death With Dignity in Delaware

Delaware failed to pass a death with dignity law that would have allowed terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication.

Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of states considering death with dignity laws. Sometimes called “assisted suicide” or “right to die” initiatives, these laws make it possible for terminally ill patients to use prescribed medication to end their lives peacefully rather than suffering a painful and protracted death.

The catalyst for greater national attention to this issue was 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who moved from California to Oregon to end her life in 2014. Maynard chose Oregon because California had not yet passed its aid-in-dying law, and Oregon is one of just a few other states to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

Delaware’s 2018 End of Life Options Act

In 2018, the Delaware General Assembly considered a new death with dignity bill, HB160, called the End of Life Options Act. The Delaware House Health and Human Development Committee voted to send the bill to a full House vote, but the House vote was postponed twice and the bill died without advancing. If it had passed, the law would have functioned much like Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, allowing terminally ill patients who met certain requirements to request and use life-ending medication.

Advocating for a Death With Dignity Act in Delaware

Citizen groups are continuing to work to legalize aid in dying in Delaware. If choice at the end of life is important to you, here are some things you can do:

  • Contact your representatives in the state general assembly and encourage them to support death with dignity in Delaware.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Tell your family, friends, health care providers, and others why you believe terminally ill patients should be allowed to choose aid in dying.
  • Search for—or start—a community advocacy group. The Compassion & Choices website can help you connect with others in your area.

Making a Will or Advance Directive

“Death with dignity” is one of the most commonly accepted phrases describing the process by which a terminally ill person ingests prescribed medication to hasten death. You may also see the phrase “right to die” used in place of “death with dignity.” However, “right to die” is more accurately used in the context of directing one’s own medical care—that is, refusing life-sustaining treatment such as a respirator or feeding tubes when permanently unconscious or close to death. In Delaware or any other state, you have a right to provide such directions or give any other health care instructions by completing an advance health care directive.

For information about appointing a health care agent and making known your wishes for medical care at the end of life, see the Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney section of Nolo.com.

Learn More

To find out more about the history and current status of death with dignity laws in the United States, visit the website of the Death With Dignity National Center.

Updated October 10, 2018

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