Maryland House of Delegates passes physician assisted suicide bill in 74-66 vote
Mar 7, 2019
The “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End-of-Life Option Act” passed in the Maryland House of Delegates in a 74-66 vote on March 7.
This bill would make it legal for adults deemed mentally capable and who have a prognosis of six months or less to receive a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs to end their life. During the debate leading up to the vote, legislators on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about the potential dangers associated with the bill.
Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Democrat representing District 23A in Prince George’s County, expressed concerns that passing the bill would start a “slippery slope,” where at first dying is presented as an option, which could be preferable to causing emotional and financial strain on others, and then, “in future years, it will not be seen as an option…it will be seen as a duty.”
Valentino-Smith further questioned whether the government should "endorse rating and judging the quality of life" of an individual.
Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat representing District 45 in Baltimore City, said she would vote to oppose the bill because “we don’t know what tomorrow holds.”
She recalled how her sister, whom she suspects would have chosen to receive the prescription of lethal drugs to hasten her death, was able to reconcile with her only son during some of the last days of her life.
“He needed that and she needed that,” she said. “…That showed me you never know what tomorrow holds, and if people take this option, you don’t get a do-over.”
Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke, a Republican representing District 31B in Anne Arundel County and serving as the House Minority Leader, discussed the need to expand access to hospice care in the state. He noted that less than five percent of low-income people in the state of Maryland receive hospice care in the last six months of their lives. Rather than pass this bill, he said they should, “figure out how to get them that care so they can experience compassion and respect in their final days.”
"This option is not good for humanity and will take our state in the wrong direction,” he said. “My conscience will not let me vote for this."
Del. Jay Walker, a Democrat representing District 26 in Prince George’s County, said he thought the general assembly was overstepping their bounds with the bill, and, “I'm always going to give my Lord the opportunity for a miracle."
Jennifer Briemann, the executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said the vote “confirms what we already knew - that physician-assisted suicide is not a partisan issue and those who are concerned about the health disparity and economic discrimination issues raised by the bill stand in strong opposition to its passage.”
“Among those in opposition were a majority of the members of the Legislative Black Caucus and many members of Democratic House leadership, and we applaud their courage to stand up to the out-of-state interests pushing this predatory agenda,” she said. “We call on the members of the Maryland Senate and Gov. Hogan to act swiftly to decry the action of their colleagues in the House and stop this dangerously flawed bill from advancing."
Expressing their disappointment at the passage of the bill, the coalition “Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide” reiterated some of the main concerns they have with the bill.
“As coalition members have said all along, there are no meaningful safeguards in this legislation to protect against the coercion and abuse of seniors, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations. There is no way to address the fact that patients in states where this practice is legal are requesting the lethal drugs because they feel like burdens on their families, not because they are in pain,” the coalition said in a statement. “We know that dangerous prescription drugs can end up in the wrong hands and this could put gasoline on a fire that is already blazing. Alongside these dangers, this practice distorts medical ethics and devalues existing end-of-life care.”
The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration. To stay up to date with the Maryland General Assembly, join the Catholic Advocacy Network.
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