Thursday, July 4, 2024

Delaware Governor Carney needs to veto assisted suicide Bill HB 140 to protect your citizens most in need of real care and compassion, not killing.

Governor John Carney
The following open letter was sent by Dr Jacqueline Harvey Abernathy, Ph.D., M.S.S.W. to Delaware Governor John Carney on July 4, 2024.

Everyone needs to contact Delaware Governor John Carney and urge him to veto assisted suicide Bill HB 140. Email him at:

Dear Governor Carney,

Dr Jacqueline Abernathy
I write today urging you to veto HB 140 to protect your citizens most in need of real care and compassion, not killing. I implore you out of deepest concern, not just for the people of Delaware but you personally as well, since you will bear responsibility for the deadly consequences HB 140 will undoubtedly inflict as written, but also the greater toll when the law is almost certainly expanded. I don't claim to know the future, but I do know the past and the history of state assisted suicide laws and I have no reason to believe that Delaware law would not be exploited as-is and reformed to remove safeguards and otherwise increase eligibility and access to death on demand. I speak as an expert on this very topic, a bioethicist with a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy and a bibliography of scholarly peer-reviewed publications on assisted suicide and end-of-life medical decision-making. Therefore, I am not offering a mere guess when I warn you that HB 140 presents immediate harm to your constituents and only stands to grow more dangerous with time.

The proverbial slippery slope is not a logical fallacy but rather, it is documented history. The supposed safeguards used to pass bills like HB 140 falsely suggest that state-sanctioned suicide can be safe. These are a smokescreen used to placate concerned legislators into voting to legalize assisted suicide for some in certain conditions, but afterwards, those qualifications and regulations are amended to include more disposable lives and easier, faster access to lethal poison. What protections in HB 140 you have been told will protect your constituents: not only do these flimsy regulations fail to prevent abuses but sooner rather than later, those provisions will be stripped from the law if you make the mistake of not vetoing HB 140. 

Insistence by pro-euthanasia lobbyists that there has been no documented abuses is widely debunked in scientific literature, even by staunch allies. A recent example just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “Medical aid in dying to avoid late-stage dementia,” gives examples, one by name, of people who were not terminally ill but starved and dehydrated themselves to qualify for assisted suicide. They brazenly call the voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED) a “bridge” to access suicide assistance, but a better term is “loophole”- a cruel way for those who want to die to kill themselves slowly until someone prescribes poison to speed things along. Abuses of state laws like HB 140 are usually addressed by reforming the statutes, but sadly, cases like these are used as rationale by lawmakers to relax or outright remove existing protections altogether so people who aren’t terminally ill let alone dying would no longer “need” to torture themselves through dehydration and starvation long enough to obtain help to die by suicide in a faster, easier way.

State laws have never been reformed to fix significant issues, like how researchers revealed in the British Medical Journal way back in 2008 that Oregon doctors were failing to make required psychiatric referrals – only 2 out of 60 patients (3.3%) received a psychiatric referral. Instead of addressing this issue, lawmakers added more discretion to the law in 2019 to exempt the 15-day waiting period in certain cases. The law was reformed again in 2023, but not to fix implementation abuses, just to drop the residency requirement to endanger vulnerable people in other states. The latest Oregon Health Authority report now shows that of the 367 patients who died by assisted suicide in 2023, only 3 were referred for a psychiatric assessment. That is fewer than 1% (.08). Likewise, even when you exclude the 23 non-residents, failure to enforce existing supposed safeguards helps explain the nearly 6-fold increase from 60 in 2008. Unreformed and purposefully relaxed safety standards are what have allowed the death toll to climb 573% since the 2008 BMJ article. Once a state embraces killing over caring, the killing only increases. What may seem reasonable now will certainly not remain so if you do not veto HB 140.

Governor, the bottom line is that you should not be at peace with signing any law that declares entire groups of human beings as disposable. My goal here is to inform you that what supposed safeguards may comfort you in the current draft of HB 140 are more than just arbitrary criteria for determining what lives don’t matter: these limits for who may access poison are clearly fungible and changeable for the worst. History proves it. On principle, you should reject any unjust law that relegates any population to a lesser status as second-class citizens who get suicide assistance vs. everyone else who gets suicide prevention when they cry out for help. You may be okay with how HB 140 decides what Delaware residents in desperate circumstances get pushed off the ledge on request to fall to their death (rather than talked down from the ledge as we usually do), but I assure you that the qualifications on which lives don't matter will likely expand to other populations if you make the mistake of signing HB 140 and opening this Pandora's Box.

You are being presented a choice that is literally vital. To decide not to veto HB 140 is to sign off on a state-wide death warrant for those most vulnerable. This is your moral duty and a burden you do not want on your conscience. Learn from the past, listen to your innate instinct to protect those most in need of compassion and VETO HB140.

Jacqueline Harvey Abernathy, Ph.D., M.S.S.W.
Dallas, Texas

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