A bill that would enable terminally ill patients to manage their own deaths with medication prescribed by a doctor is slated for a House Health, Education and Welfare Committee hearing Wednesday.
“Lila cared deeply about this issue,” Senator Gayle Goldin (D-Providence), the sponsor of the Senate version, said in a news release. “So it’s only proper that the legislation she fought so hard to create should bear her name. Lila Sapinsley worked tirelessly all her life to make things better for people, and I’m only too proud to introduce this legislation in the same chamber where she once so graciously served.”
According to Goldin and the House sponsor, Representative Edith Ajello (D-Providence), the bill would guarantee a terminal patient’s right to manage one’s own death provided certain criteria are met, including a documented oral request of a doctor, followed by a second oral request no sooner than 15 days later. The doctor would be required to offer the patient an opportunity to rescind the request, and the patient would have to submit a written request signed in the presence of two witnesses.
Doctors would have to find that a patient suffered from a terminal condition, was making an informed decision, and is a Rhode Island resident. The physician would also have to inform the patient of treatment options, hospice care options, and the result of taking the medication, including potential risks. In addition, the opinion of a second doctor would be required for confirmation of the diagnosis and prognosis. The physician would be required to verify that the patient did not have impaired judgment.
Supporters of the legislation include Sapinsley's daughter, Pat. “As difficult a subject as end-of-life issues may be, my mother was not the type to shy away from difficult subjects," Pat Sapinsley said. "She saw an opportunity to help others to maintain some dignity and alleviate suffering and she was moved to action. My sisters and I can think of no better way to honor our mother’s legacy than to pass this courageous bill.”
Supporters say Oregon, Washington and Vermont have enacted so-called death with dignity laws, while court action has made them legal in Montana and New Mexico.