By Chris Haring

For the first time since its introduction nearly a decade ago, a Delaware bill that would legalize the right to die will move to the State Senate.

After ten years and for the first time, the Delaware House of Representatives has approved House Bill 140, aimed at expanding end-of-life options for terminally ill adults in the state. Delaware joins New Hampshire and Virginia as states this year in which at least one chamber has passed medical aid in dying legislation, 

After nearly a decade of attempts, as reported by Mark Fowser for, the bill passed 21-16 with four absentees and now proceeds to the State Senate for further review.

Medical aid-in-dying champions explain their support for expanded end-of-life options

During the deliberations, Representative Pete Schwartzkopf (D – Rehoboth Beach) emphasized the importance of providing individuals facing terminal diagnoses with the dignified option of medical aid in dying.  Rather than an “ultimatum,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, HB 140 gives dying patients an additional choice, alongside services such as hospice care. He underscored the significance of allowing terminally ill patients to retain control over their final moments.

Representative Paul Baumbach (D – Newark) – the sponsor of this and other previous Delaware medical aid-in-dying bills – highlighted the advocacy efforts of dying patients like Ron Silverio and Heather Block, both of whom died without the option of physician-assisted death. Their experiences underscore the urgency of providing compassionate end-of-life options that honor the wishes of terminally ill individuals.

Physician-assisted dying can provide the option of a “good death”

Judy Govatos, a Stage 4 lymphoma patient from Wilmington, expressed her support for the bill, saying, “I am advocating for the Senate to pass this law that will allow me and other people the option and compassion to do just one last thing. I want to live fully until I can’t, knowing that I have the option of dying gracefully.”

The bill includes provisions to safeguard the autonomy and well-being of patients, such as requirements for informed consent, opportunities to rescind requests, confirmation of terminal diagnoses by qualified providers, mental health evaluations if deemed necessary, and strict witness protocols. As with all 10 states and Washington DC that allow medical aid in dying, the bill requires the patient to be capable of making their own health care decisions, and able to self-administer the medication.

As the bill progresses to the Senate, stakeholders, including patients, advocates, and lawmakers, will continue to shape the discourse surrounding medical aid in dying in Delaware. The passage of House Bill 140 represents a significant step towards affirming the rights of individuals to make critical decisions about their lives, and we urge the Senate to further affirm the right to die in Delaware.

For more information on the status of Death with Dignity in Delaware, please visit the state page on our website.