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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 1, 2019 09:11 AM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Death With Dignity Act
Soon I will reintroduce the Pennsylvania “Death with Dignity Act." This bill would allow people with a terminal disease to request a prescription for medicine that would end their life in a humane and dignified manner. This legislation is based on an Oregon law that has been in effect for several years and was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

My inspiration for this bill was a close family member's experience with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatments were aggressive and lengthy, and they all failed. If any pet owner in America had forced a dog or cat to endure such treatment, he or she 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. This must change.

Most, if not all of us, want to determine our own end of life decisions. My bill would make that possible. To be prescribed life ending medicine, a patient must adhere to strict criteria:
  • The patient must be a resident of Pennsylvania.
  • The request must come from the patient, on a form prescribed in the statute.
  • The request must 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 must certify that the patient is of sound mind.
  • The patient’s attending physician must certify that the patient has a terminal disease, has less than six months to live, and has been notified of their options including the possibility of comfort care, hospice care or pain control.
  • A second “consulting physician” must 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. This bill will go a long way toward ensuring that people suffering from terminal diseases in Pennsylvania retain control over their end-of-life care.

Please join me in supporting this important legislation.

If you have questions about this legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Introduced as SB1225