ANNAPOLIS, March 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Legislation allowing terminally-ill patients in Maryland to take their own lives died in the Maryland Senate Wednesday, in a tied vote that fell one short of the majority needed to pass.
Under the so-called “End of Life Options Act,” patients age 18 years or older who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease and a prognosis of six months or less may be prescribed drugs to end their lives, provided they make the request three times (one of which must be in writing, another in private).
The measure failed to pass the House in the previous three legislative sessions but passed earlier this month thanks in part to a handful of lawmakers who said their minds were changed by hearing or witnessing stories of elderly loved ones who suffered at the end of their lives. Opponents argued that presuming to decide when lives should end was playing God and robs families of unpredictable future experiences (however brief).
“Allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of addictive drugs with no way to make sure those drugs don't end up in the wrong hands or on our streets is bad policy,” the Maryland Catholic Conference also argued. “And there is nothing in this bill to ensure that insurance companies don't deny coverage of life-saving treatments and instead fully pay for these lethal drugs because it's more cost efficient to end life than it is to save it.”
Despite Democrats also controlling the state Senate, however, the Senate voted 23-23 on the bill Wednesday, Maryland Matters reports, coming one vote short of a majority.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee had tightened its language with a number of amendments, including raising the age to 21, requiring assessment of patients’ mental health, requiring doctors to give patients lists of alternative treatments, and removing the immunity clauses for physicians who offer the lethal drugs.
Yet the changes did not alter the fundamental nature of the disagreement, which found members of both parties on both sides.
“What does it mean to prescribe death as a treatment?” asked Republican state Sen. Robert Cassilly, who previously called the measure “fundamentally evil.” Democrat state Sen. Obie Patterson opted not to vote at all because “I’ve had experiences on both sides,” and “could not bring myself to move right or left on the bill.”
Doctor-assisted suicide is opposed by religious leaders such as the Maryland Catholic Conference as well as medical organizations such as the National Council on Disability, American Psychiatric Association, Baltimore City Medical Society, Maryland Psychiatric Society, American College of Physicians (MD Branch), ARC Maryland, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
LifeSiteNews also worked to mobilize opposition to the End of Life Options Act, via a LifePetition that gathered more than 6,000 signatures.
“As a Marylander, myself, it was a great feeling to see the lives of the vulnerable, the disabled and the poor remain protected by law,” said LifePetition campaign coordinator Scott Schittl. “However, we need to remain vigilant for next year and the year after.”
“There is no reason to assume that Maryland could not become like Holland, where one-in-four of all deaths are now induced by medical 'professionals,’” he warned. “A 'euthanasia culture' causes more people to want to die,” as well as “probably a lot of lazy and indifferent, as well as downright bloody-minded, medical treatment.”
“This is not something we want in Maryland (or, any other state, for that matter),” Schittle declared. “So, we thank all our readers who both participated in the petition and prayed for this outcome!”
Liberal Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had not come out for or against the legislation, promising only to carefully consider it if it reached his desk.
Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in just six states and the District of Columbia, though another 17 (such as New Mexico) are currently considering legislation to legalize it. Oregon is currently debating whether to expand the criteria of patients eligible for its own assisted-suicide option.
Last summer, the prestigious American Medical Association declined to reaffirm its longstanding opposition to doctor-assisted suicide, instead ending a two-year study period by voting for another round of review.