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 — Lawmakers and supporters crowded a House of Delegates meeting room on Thursday to support legislation to let terminally ill patients in Maryland end their lives by taking prescription drugs.

“This is all about personal choice when you reach that point in life that you say, ‘I can’t bear going on, and I want to make the choice to end on my terms and in a peaceful way,’” said Frederick County state Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3.

Young and Delegate Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, will join other lawmakers in a renewed effort to pass an End of Life Option Act this session. Young and Pendergrass are the lead sponsors of related bills scheduled to be introduced in each chamber on Friday.

The bill would let competent adults who live in Maryland and are suffering from a disease likely to kill them within six months to 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. Doctors could decline to prescribe the lethal doses if they wish.

There are criminal penalties for people who falsify a written request or coerce someone else into seeking a prescription. The bill does not legalize lethal injection, mercy killing or euthanasia.

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 during debate last year.

Opposition to the bill last year centered on religious beliefs, fear that people could end their lives based on a false diagnosis or depression, and fear that the bill could lead to terminally ill Marylanders being pressured by others to end their lives.

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.

Supporters “tried very hard to do everything we can” to strengthen language to make it clear that a prescription would be the choice of the individual, not someone else, Pendergrass said.

The bill adds language that would require the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to collect information about aid-in-dying prescriptions and report that data annually.

The same collection method is used in Oregon and revealed that about one-third of people who secure a lethal prescription don’t use it.

The bill will face opposition. Last year, a coalition of religious and disability groups formed against the legislation.

A Goucher poll released during last year’s General Assembly session found that 60 percent of Maryland residents surveyed would support allowing terminally ill patients to secure lethal doses of medication from a willing doctor.

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.

A representative from Compassion & Choices, a national advocacy group promoting the legislation, thinks the bill will garner more co-sponsors than it did last year, when 47 lawmakers signed on.

“This issue is a purple issue. It crosses color lines. It crosses class lines. It crosses political lines,” said Donna Smith, the Maryland campaign manager for Compassion & Choices.

Young said he’s keeping his fingers crossed that the legislation will move forward this year.

“I think we have enough support to pass the bill. We have to get it out of committees,” Young told the crowd of supporters before they headed out to lobby their lawmakers Thursday afternoon. “I’m feeling very good about making this happen this year.”

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.

(10) comments

johnqFrederick

Can Ron and Karen Young 'walk the talk', and provide a public demonstration of their 'assisted suicide for dummies' please -- so very tired of the lack of any value or critical thinking that comes from these two career politicians.

BradleyWilliams

Your source has done you a disservice. The promoters of assisted suicide have worn out their thesaurus attempting to imply that it is legal in Montana. Assisted suicide is a homicide in Montana. Our MT Supreme Court ruled that if a doctor is charged with a homicide they might have a potential defense based on consent. The Court did not address civil liabilities and they vacated the lower court’s claim that it was a constitutional right. Unlike Oregon no one in Montana has immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. Does that sound legal to you?

BradleyWilliams

I see you all will be reporting on a legalize assisted suicide bill upcoming.
I have found (serving 60 fair booth days) that about half of the public thinks they are in favor of such a law, that is until they learn about the flaws in the laws that create new paths of elder abuse with immunity. Once they learn that a predatory heir may steer the signup process and then forcibly administer the lethal dose without oversight, they all said, "I am not for that!".
Anyway all of these Oregon Model bills have the same flaws that eviscerate flaunted safe guards.
Here is an example list of flaws posted recently about the New Jersey bill that failed.

The New Jersey Alliance exposed the following flaws in S 382:
No requirement of mental health evaluation or pain relief consultation.
Permits an heir to witness a death request.
Requires no oversight on whether the patient was willing to take the lethal drugs.
No requirement that a medical person be present to supervise the ingestion of lethal drugs.
Allows a third party familiar with how the patient communicates to make the death request.
* Permits lethal drugs to remain in a patient’s home without securing them.

* Relies on the inaccurate premise that a doctor can predict death within six months.

* No distinction as to whether the death prediction is with or without treatment of the patient.

* No required notification of family members.

Immunizes from prosecution anyone participating in administering lethal drugs, even if their participation was coercive and out of self-interest

Falsely certifies the cause of death.

The New Jersey Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is a broadly-based, diverse coalition of organizations strongly opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide.
Use this as a check off list on your bill when it is published. Well worth your time.
At your service,
Bradley Williams
President
MTaas.org
Hamilton, MT 59840 Ps was born in Baltimore

shiftless88

so how much actual evidence of these types of actions exist in states where assisted suicide is legal?

public-redux

Why do you think family members should be notified if the person seeking assistance does not want them notified?

Charles Jenkins

This was the topic of my first column in the FNP 3 years ago - happy to see it proposed and hope it passes.

Dwasserba

PS Nobody polled our household.

Dwasserba

I wouldn't say "fear." I would say "concern." "Fear" has different conotations.

shiftless88

I'm sure you are concerned, but some vague concern shouldn't be a reason to just ignore the problem. The bill is strengthened and further safeguards put into place. The question is: would you ever support a bill allowing this or is your concern sufficient to remove that option altogether no matter what safeguards exist? If it's the latter then you should just fess up and say "I will never support this in any form".

writer

Thank you, Ron Young, and other legislators who support this bill. This bill will change nothing for those who choose to ignore it but it will be a comfort to many who feel the right belongs to the individual who is suffering.

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