Commentary: Delaware’s terminally ill deserve consideration

From left, Ron Silverio, Susan Lahaie and their granddaughter Nora.

Recently, Maine became the 10th U.S. jurisdiction to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation following New Jersey, which passed its bill just two months ago. The bills were signed into law by Maine’s governor Janet Mills and New Jersey’s governor Phil Murphy on April 12.

My husband, Ron Silverio and I discussed medical aid in dying a number of times. It is an issue he strongly believed in even before his own journey with terminal cancer began in 2012. He continued to advocate for this option until the day he died. Unfortunately, other terminally ill Delawareans who want access to aid-in-dying like Ron did are still waiting for the legislature to move this important bill.

Like the new Maine and New Jersey laws, Delaware’s legislation would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to have the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable to help them die peacefully in their sleep.

In 2017 Ron joined thousands of Delawareans in advocating for our state’s legislature to pass the End of Life Options Act. He was dying of metastatic prostate cancer. He wasn’t afraid to die but he was afraid of the very real possibility of extreme suffering as the cancer had spread to his bones.

Ron often said his journey would have been so much less stressful if he had known from the beginning that he had access to medical aid in dying. He may never have decided to use it, but just knowing this option was available if the going got too tough would have dramatically improved the quality of his remaining life. He would have been able to focus on living instead of having to worry for almost six years about how he would die.

Ron died in January 2018. Prostate cancer finally claimed his body but never his spirit. He faced his final days with humor and courage. Unfortunately, the End of Life Options Act did not pass in time to help him. Ron wanted so very much to live. There is no doubt in my mind that if this option had been available for Ron that he would have actually lived longer than he was able to live without it.

In his own way, Ron continues to share himself and his story. At Ron’s request, our family and friends carry on the fight to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for other terminally ill adults in Delaware.

This year, our family was honored to learn the legislation was renamed the Ron Silverio/Heather Block Delaware End of Life Options Act (HB 140), named in honor of Ron and fellow advocate Heather Block who died in March 2018.

The terminally ill residents of Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C. and Hawaii are fortunate that their legislatures and governors listened to their constituents and took a stand for their end-of-life self-determination and autonomy. The terminally ill people of Delaware deserve no less. I respectfully request that the Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Act (HPB 140) be given consideration this session.

Susan Lahaie is a resident of Dover.

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