Pennsylvania may soon become the third state in the U.S. to allow assisted suicide.
The Death with Dignity Act is based on the Oregon law that allows physicians to prescribe lethal amounts of medication to the terminally ill at the patient's request.
"Most people do not choose to end their lives," said Dr. Arthur Caplan, the director of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Most just like having the fallback to choose to do it."
According to Oregon's annual report on the Death with Dignity Act, the average age of a person who has died under the law is 72. Among those who have died, 80 percent had cancer and 97 percent died in their homes.
Challengers of the bill argue the legislation undermines the healing and life-preserving functions of the medical system. Caplan, who did not say whether he supports the bill, said many opponents feel it'll be a "slippery slope" if the bill is passed and fear the law will be wrongly used against mentally ill or disabled persons.
Earlier this month, Washington became the second state to allow assisted suicide after voters in November approved the move. Washington's law is also based on Oregon's, which has had an assisted suicide law for more than a decade.
Under the (Pennsylvania) bill's guidelines, those who seek to end their lives would have to be diagnosed with a fatal disease that leaves them six months or less to live. Patients have to be conscious, at least 18 years of age and of sound mind to put in a request.
Doctors are also required to inform patients of alternatives to suicide, including hospice care and a variety of pain medications.
For the patient to be prescribed the lethal medications, they would have to file a verbal and written request and then be evaluated by doctors and psychologists who are unrelated to that patient's health care providers.
The suicide option would only be available for in-state residents to prevent terminally ill from collecting in the state of Pennsylvania.
A report last year found that while few people in Oregon actually chose assisted suicide, many more consider it and discussed the possibility with doctors and family members. Many also reported taking comfort from the knowledge that the option was there, even if it isn't used.
This is the second time Democratic Senator Daylin Leach has tried to get such a bill passed.