By Chris Haring

The Delaware legislature has passed a bill to authorize medical aid in dying, which now only needs Governor John Carney’s signature to become law.

In an exciting victory for the Delaware aid-in-dying movement, the Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act (HB140) passed the state’s Senate for the first time ever on Tuesday with an 11-10 in favor vote and is now awaiting Governor John Carney’s signature. The vote comes just days after the Senate failed to pass the bill on a 9-9 tie vote.

Delaware’s decade-long path to legalizing medical aid in dying

As Sean Curtis reported for CBS affiliate WBOC, the bill’s approval reflects a decade of advocacy and debate around the legalization of compassionate end-of-life options. If signed into law, House Bill 140 would provide eligible adults with the option to obtain a prescription for medication that can end their lives under specific conditions similar to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates and legislative champions such as Rep. Paul Baumbach (D—Newark), the movement towards legalized medical aid in dying in Delaware steadily built momentum, over the past decade. (The bill passed the state House by a 21-16 vote approximately two weeks before the Senate’s approval.)

“This is an issue about allowing adults facing a terminal illness to make critical decisions about their last days. Many people in the last stages of life wish to make their own choices regarding their life and their suffering,” Rep. Baumbach said.

Physician-assisted dying will  become law in Delaware, barring a gubernatorial veto

Now, Gov. Carney faces a decision that could significantly impact the lives of many Delawareans. Under Delaware law, once a bill comes to the governor’s desk, they have ten days to sign, veto, or do nothing, allowing it to become law by default. It currently remains unclear what the governor will decide.

Although medical aid in dying can become law without his explicit endorsement, a signature would be a final stamp of approval for dignified, compassionate end-of-life options from the state. Regardless, the passage of the Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act by Delaware’s legislature marks a critical milestone in the state’s legislative history and for the national right-to-die movement. 

Please visit our state page for more information on the history and progression of Death with Dignity in Delaware.