End-of-Life Bill Withdrawn in Md. General Assembly

Supporters rally for the End-of-Life Option Act on Jan. 25 in Annapolis. (Photo by Justin Silberman)

A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients in Maryland to legally end their lives failed to garner enough support from state lawmakers to advance in the General Assembly.

On March 3, Del. Shane Pendergrass (D-District 13) and Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-District 13), both from Howard County, pulled the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life Option Act from the House of Delegates and Senate, respectively, over insufficient political backing in the House.

Under the legislation, terminally ill but mentally competent patients with six months or less to live would have been allowed to end their lives using a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor. Patients would have been required to visit with two doctors — including their primary care physician — and request the life-ending prescription three times.

During the previous two sessions, Pendergrass, chair of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, sponsored similar versions of the bill. But each of her attempts to get such a measure on the books was withdrawn before making it to a vote.

Proponents of the legislation believe it would provide an appropriate option for those suffering from a devastating prognosis.

“I think we should treat ourselves with as much dignity and compassion as we treat our pets,” Doug Tsitouris, a 68-year-old Cape St. Claire resident battling advanced emphysema, previously told the JT. “For me, it’s all about quality of life. As an adult, I think the person doing the dying should have the last word if they are terminally ill.”

Opponents, however, including spiritual leaders and people with disabilities, argue that not enough safeguards are in place to protect patients from making a decision against their wishes.

“The concept that someone can go ahead and say, ‘Well, enough is enough,’ that’s not a decision that’s up to you,” Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, director of Agudath Israel of Maryland, previously told the JT. “It’s not our decision to decide when people are born and when they die.”

After Oregon became the first state to approve assisted dying statuses in 1997, the practice has gained modest traction around the country. Just last month, Washington, D.C., became the sixth jurisdiction to enact an aid-in-dying law.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

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