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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 11, 2017 12:10 PM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Death With Dignity / Right to Die
In the near future I will be re-introducing the Pennsylvania “Death with Dignity Act”. This bill would allow people with a terminal disease to, under certain conditions, request a prescription for medicine that would end their life in a humane and dignified manner. This law is largely based on an Oregon law which has been in effect for several years and was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

The inspiration for this bill was a close family member's experience with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatments were aggressive and lengthy, they all failed. If any pet owner in America had forced a dog or cat to endure such treatment, he would have been charged with animal cruelty. Yet human beings are, under current law in Pennsylvania, condemned to suffer unspeakable agony with no legal recourse. I believe this has to change.

I think most, if not all of us would want to make our end of life decisions ourselves. My bill would make that possible. There would be strict criteria that would have to be met. Let me lay out what would have to happen before a person could be prescribed life-ending medicine.

  • The patient would have to be a resident of Pennsylvania
  • The request would have to come from the patient , on a form prescribed in the statute
  • The request would have to be witnessed by two people, one of whom would have to be a non-relative who had no financial stake in the death of the patient
  • Those witnesses would have to certify that the patient was of sound mind when he or she signed the request
  • The patient’s attending physician would have to certify that the patient had a terminal disease, had less than six months to live, and had been told all of his or her options including the possibility of comfort care, hospice care or pain control
  • A second “consulting physician would have to certify everything the attending physician did
  • The patient would have the right, at any point, to decide not to seek the prescription described in this bill

There are numerous other protections in the bill which will guarantee, that every request made under the Death with Dignity Act is voluntary, informed and made without coercion of any kind. I think this bill will go a long way towards ensuring that people suffering from terminal diseases in Pennsylvania retain control over their end-of-life care.

If you have questions about this legislation, please contact my Legislative Director, Jon Tew, at jtew@pasenate.com or 610-768-4200.

Introduced as SB238