The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee voted 8-3 Friday in favor of advancing the End-of-Life Option Act to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed, 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. 

After hours of deliberation, the version of the bill that they advanced includes 20 amendments, which, according to the Washington Postinclude a mandatory mental health referral from a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker; a definition of terminal illness that includes descriptions like irreversible and progressive; and a requirement that a consulting physician provide the patient with a list of alternative treatments in writing.

While proponents of the bill, such as Compassion & Choices, say the amendments to the bill present too many roadblocks for patients, opponents of the bill say it remains dangerous and could lead to vulnerable populations being pressured into choosing to die.

“This proposal is still a departure from medical best practices and there are immediate public safety risks,” said the coalition Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide in a statement. “True informed consent is still not reasonably assured, particularly for those with disabilities, and there are still no controls in place to collect unused prescription drugs, typically barbiturates which are addictive to the point of causing life-threatening withdrawal. From risks to public safety, to dissuading people from availing themselves of existing end-of-life health care, to exacerbating health care disparities, to distorting medical ethics, this legislation still has serious negative consequences.”

The bill will now advance to the full Maryland Senate for a vote, which is expected to occur this week. If the Senate passes the bill, the state's House of Delegates will have to decide if it accepts the Senate’s amendments, and if it does not, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President will each appoint representatives to a Conference Committee, which will consider both versions of the bill and draft a compromise version. Both chambers must pass the same version of the bill for it to go to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for a signature or veto. There are only two weeks remaining in the 2019 legislative session.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is encouraging Catholics in Maryland to contact their senators and urge them to vote “no” on the bill, because, according to the MCC, the measure sends the wrong message “to those who might feel that their illness and the care they require is nothing more than a burden to their families and the rest of society.”

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