Compassion photo

Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, speaks about the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life Option Act in January in Annapolis at a lobbying day by the advocacy group Compassion & Choices. Young sponsored the bill in the Maryland Senate. Standing at Young’s right is Delegate Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, who is the lead sponsor of a bill in the House of Delegates.

ANNAPOLIS — The questions were sharp and came quickly Thursday evening in a Senate committee hearing to consider legislation to let terminally ill patients in Maryland end their lives by taking prescription drugs.

Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, is sponsoring the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End of Life Option Act for the second time this year.

Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee — a notoriously inquisitive committee — started with a series of questions and answers between Young and committee member Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4.

Young’s bill would let competent adults who live in Maryland and are suffering from a disease likely to kill them within six months secure lethal doses of medication from their physicians. Before a doctor could write the prescription, a patient would have to make three separate requests for it.

The patient would have to self-administer the medication at the time of their death, and doctors could decline to prescribe the lethal doses if they wish.

It is the second year for a large-scale push to pass the legislation in Maryland. A joint legislative work group met while the General Assembly was out of session to fine-tune the bill and address concerns raised in debate last year.

This year’s bill adds language requiring the individual requesting a lethal prescription to make an oral request alone with the doctor, which removes concerns about coercion in the process. It also requires the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to collect information about aid-in-dying prescriptions and report that data annually.

Hough asked Young about eight questions, many of them summarizing opposition to the proposed bill, including whether the bill stood in opposition to Maryland’s current law banning assisted suicide, whether the bill was discriminatory against some ailing people who wouldn’t be able to “self-administer” the drug because of paralysis or inability to swallow, and whether it was fraud to list the cause of death of a patient who used the procedure outlined in the bill as “natural causes.”

Kim Callinan, chief program officer of Compassion & Choices, the primary organization supporting the bill, said many of the questions posed by Hough were considered and contemplated in the bill, which was based, in part, on legislation passed by other states.

Maryland joins an increasing number of states pursuing similar legislation. In October, California became the fifth state to legalize medical aid in dying. Only one other state has created a similar law through its legislature — Vermont, in 2013. The three other states that have so-called “death with dignity” laws on the books are Oregon, Washington and Montana.

At Thursday’s Senate committee hearing, some senators asked why other changes hadn’t been made to this year’s bill to gain more support.

Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, who said he was “in the middle” on the issue, asked whether the bill could have been amended to require more medical certainty before a person could receive a prescription, or could be narrowed to patients with a shorter prognosis, around two or three months to live.

Callinan said the time frame doesn’t mean the pills need to be taken when a person has six months to live, but it gives patients enough time to see a doctor and retrieve the prescription.

Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll, asked why a mandatory psychiatric screening couldn’t be included.

Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr., R-Harford, who served on a legislative committee that studied the issue before this year’s bill was introduced, said he wished the bill would have included provisions for storage or destruction of the prescriptions that are not used because they are “very potent chemicals.”

Young said he was open to an amendment on that issue.

Other lawmakers, indicated support for the bill. Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, said having lived through cancer, he saw people suffer tremendously and succumb to terror at the end of their lives.

The bill was considered by a House committee during a several-hour hearing last Friday. Last year, the bills were heard by committees, but were never voted on.

This year’s bill has 41 sponsors and co-sponsors in the House, and 13 sponsors and co-sponsors in the Senate.

A Frederick woman, Geraldine Lloyd, urged the Senate panel to take action this year.

An artist, writer and activist, Lloyd has lived for 23 years with cancers of the throat and lung. She spoke to the committee, and left longer written testimony for the members about her life experience.

“For 23 years under these near tragic consequences, I’ve cherished every breath of my life,” Lloyd wrote. At the end of her life, Lloyd told the committee she wishes to die peacefully, rather than connected to medical interventions.

“Like millions of others who love life with courage and passion, who like me, are facing the finish line, we should be able to pass with a focus on how we’ve lived, not on how we’ve been forced to die,” she said.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(29) comments

diana61

Geoffsail this is in reference to your comment..... my mother was in hospice care and she suffered toward the very in..... she was so heavily medicated to ease her suffering..... she did not die painlessly,,,, she didn't die with dignity..... this legislation has worked for 10 years in Oregon. Had this been available in Maryland my mom would have had this available as a choice. Her disease was not curable there was not going to be a positive outcome. I was brought up Roman Catholic went to church every sunday went to a catholic school,, married catholic baptized my children. I was taught that taking your life was a sin. However we were taught that if you believed in god and Jesus that you would have eternal life that Jesus died for our sins and suffering. with that being said..... when that doctor says we have done all we can do for you..... and you have accepted that your odds of beating a terminal ill disease are gone and the pain and suffering is unbearable and you have that drug to end your life peacefully.... shouldn't that be a option a person has.... it may not be a option you want but for those that do it should be in place

b1sellers

I support someone's choice to do what they feel is right for them. That is what freedom is. It is no one else's opinion or business. No matter what their religion or religious preference. In this country we have freedom from pother peoples religion.

jsklinelga

b1sellers
You are correct. You should not be bound by other's religion in your choice. But....
.
What many fear is that it will be a slippery slope where it is not really the person's choice. They may be in a heightened state of depression from which they could recover when they have made this choice. Or this choice could be made for them in the dead of night. A person's choice when they are of sound mind should be their right. It is the great potential for possible misdiagnosis or murder for convenience that is being heavily weighed,

shiftless88

There is so far a lack of evidence that there is a danger of this slipperly slope.

DickD

Where there is a probably, it will happen, don't blind yourself to reality.

shiftless88

DickD; you will forbid all those people their choice because YOU THINK that one day someone will maybe possibly, what, coerce someone into offing themselves? Remember, they would have already have had to spend private time with a physician to obtain the medication in the first place so it's not like the nephew who wants the house goes and picks it up and forces it down their throats. Get real.

diana61

shiftless I agree 100 percent

DickD

Exactly, jsk. It is not that we want to take other peoples choice away and they can do as they want, but there are risks in this bill, which we do not need.

diana61

Jsk if you read the bill in place.... the patient has to be competent.... request 3 times ( with out family there)once in writing and be able to take the medication ones self... if the doctor feels that is what the patien wants he can write the prescription or deny it.... I think there are a lot of safe guards and no slippery slopes

DickD

Not all people diagnosed with just six months of life expectancy die, some actually get out of hospice and survive for years. Some of these people are definitely despondent, as anyone diagnosed with a lethal disease and little life expectancy will normally become. Is this a good bill, to me it is not. Not because I do believe in life, although death is the ultimate for all of us. But I do believe in a God and God will determine my life expectancy more accurately than any doctor. For those of you that do not believe in God, let me say there is something that started life, can you tell me what if you do not believe in God. No, I cannot prove God. It is a belief.

public-redux

No one expects physicians to be perfect so the fact that some folks diagnosed as terminal live longer than 6 months isn't nearly as important as you seem to think. (By the same token, physicians might erroneously think someone isn't terminal when they are actually are and the physician wouldn't be allowed to prescribe them a lethal dose. So it cuts both ways, right?)

But I am struck by one implication of your argument. Consider Person A. She wishes to end her life for reasons that are valid under this bill. Let's say Person A is miserably ill and has been told that she won't live for more than 6 months. One of your reasons for opposing this bill is that she might live more than 6 months. It is a strange version of compassion that you want her to have the "opportunity" to be miserably ill for more than 6 months. I find that a horribly twisted notion of morality.

DickD

And your exception should rule, mostly because you do not believe in a God?

public-redux

What exception are you referring to? My argument applies across the board.

As to the god thing. Suppose I believed in a god who (I believed) wanted everyone who was terminally ill to commit suicide. I wouldn't use government to compel everyone else to adhere to my religion. Would you?

jsklinelga

DickD
I applaud your forthright statement of belief. Sincerely.

This is a complicated issue. Some say that suicide is a sin. I can understand some reasoning behind that but I have never found a scriptural backup to this belief. Especially not pronounced several times. In some churches it is a doctrine.

My understanding of God is that he loves mercy. Justice and mercy, but definitely mercy. If I was completely incapacitated and saw myself become an ever increasing burden on my family and had no hope of any recovery: hand me the pills. A burden not only on my family, but the caregivers and the medical system.I would not want a million dollars spent on me when it could help others. i would want a choice. As far as God. i believe he would understand.

This is an extraordinarily difficult and complex issue. If you believe in God, pray for his guidance,understanding and mercy to help those wrestling with this issue.

DickD

No problem at all with your statement, jsk. I feel the same.

shiftless88

Why is it that people evoke "God's will" when discussing the timing of their death as a reason against enabling death, but ignore "God's will" when discussing being kept alive by medicine. Logically they are both the same continuum; if you want "God's will" then skip any treatments because you are going against God's desires just as certainly as you are by taking medication that hastens your demise.

DickD

God helps those that help themselves.

public-redux

How do you know that to be true? Is it always true? Does God help people who don't believe in Him? If two people help themselves in ways that have the effect of harming the other, which one does God help the most?

shiftless88

Great; well let someone help themselves pass away peacefully and without pain.

jsklinelga

shiftless88
Certainly you are not alone in this thought. t had the same thoughts.

In regard to your other comments about a slippery slope and mistaken, wrongful death. let us hope no evidence ever exist. That is why so much deliberation is ongoing. Legalizing the taking of life is not something to be taken lightly.

public-redux

Why is it that "God's will" always matches up perfectly with the wishes of the person invoking God?

shiftless88

[thumbup]

BlueDawn666

Beautiful words:

“For 23 years under these near tragic consequences, I’ve cherished every breath of my life,” Lloyd wrote. At the end of her life, Lloyd told the committee she wishes to die peacefully, rather than connected to medical interventions.

“Like millions of others who love life with courage and passion, who like me, are facing the finish line, we should be able to pass with a focus on how we’ve lived, not on how we’ve been forced to die,” she said.

Again this is all about choice..your body, your choice. No has the right to force their choices on your body.

geoffsail

Maryland already has "Compassion and Choices....care and choice at the end of life." It's called Pain & Palliative Care (PPC) and Hospice Care (HC). PPC and HC are covered by Medicare and Medicaid along with most insurances, and even ObamaCare. Medicare does NOT cover 1) Treatment for the terminal illness that is not for pain control and other symptom management, 2) Care given by another healthcare provider that was not arranged through the hospice program, and 3) Care given by another healthcare provider that duplicates care the Medicare-approved hospice provider is required to provide. PPC is available for patients with intractable pain while HC is available to patients with less than six months to live...this is already in place.

In Frederick, we are blessed to have FMH's PPC service and Hospice of Frederick County (http://www.hospiceoffrederick.org/) and the Kline Hospice House. Most community hospitals/communities have PPC and HC services available. PPC/HC national organizations, standards of practice, accreditation, and professional certification are already in place. So why does Maryland need this bill? I have no idea.

Research confirms that a terminal patient's quality-of-life (QOL) improves and they live longer when they enroll in a hospice program. If a patient is not getting the level of care and caring they desire, no matter what the issue is, they have the right to find a provider that will partner with them on their health care decisions. You may have to say to your provider "You're fired!"

We have compassion and choices available to us right now. Check out the facts and don't let these politicians legislate us down this slippery slope of mercy killing.

BlueDawn666

This is not mercy killing, clearly you have no clue what you are ranting about. Can you at least read the article and study up on this bill so you don't come across so uniformed? thanks

geoffsail

Dear BD666.....no rant here. Just the facts re what is currently available. I did not say this is mercy killing (if you 'would at least read [my post] and study up on [health care resources]). It would help you 'be informed.' I did not say this is mercy killing....I said it is a slippery slope in that direction to the point that human life has no value; especially if you are unwanted, undesirable, a burden to society, disabled, etc. Look at the history of failed cultures and 'be informed.'

DickD

Yes, geo, there are many short sighted people here.[thumbup]

public-redux

You are correct that we have choices available right now. We want to add one more option to the list. A choice that is unavailable right now. That's all.

DickD

Thank you geo, can you tell us how well pain is controlled for those that are terminally ill, as that is the real question. If there is no pain, there is no great reason for suicide, except for the fear of living as a vegetable on life support. For those few people it may be a way out.

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