Two Frederick County lawmakers are co-sponsoring this legislation.
Annapolis, Md (KM) The Maryland General Assembly this year will be taking up an “End of Life Options” bill this year.
Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D) is one of the co-sponsors in the House of Delegates. She says terminally ill patients can consult with their physicians, who would prescribe medications which would end their lives. “They are in pain, extreme pain, and they have agreed with their doctor that they would prefer to end their life on their own terms,” she says.
State Senator Ron Young is co-sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate. He says the doctor would prescribe but not administer the medication to the patient. “It’s an individual choice. No one assists them. They have to make the choice themselves. They have to do themselves,” Young says.
Senator Young was the sponsor of the bill last year. But that task has been turned over to Senator Guy Guzzone (D-Howard). Young says Guzzone will use his relationships with the disability community to get their support for the legislation. “They’ve got the idea that this might be used against people with disabilities. The bill totally prohibits that,” says Senator Young.
The legislation requires that the individuals who want to end their lives be mentally capable and be certified by a physician. Senator Young says they cannot be persons with Alzheimers disease or have physical or mental disabilities.
In the Senate, the bill will go before the Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Judiciary and Health and Government Operations Committees will take up the bill in the House of Delegates..
Last year, the State Medical Society was opposed to the bill. But this year, it’s taken a neutral stance.
Senator Young says the legislation would not force doctors to prescribe the drugs if they feel uncomfortable about doing so. “If they don’t want to participate, they have to tell their patients that they won’t participate and give them option to go to another doctor who might participate. But no one is forced to participate in this,” he said.
Senator Young also says a number of legislators are opposed based on religious grounds, but even some people whose faith leaders are against the “End of Life Options” bill support it. “While a majority of Catholics support it, the Church itself doesn’t. While a majority of Jews support it, the Conservative rabbis don’t,” he says.
The bill came before the General Assembly last year, but it was withdrawn on the last day of session. Delegate Young says the chances this year are up in the air. “The conversations I’ve heard is that it would probably pass in the House. They didn’t know about the Senate,” she says.
“In the states that have this, about a third of the people who get the drugs never use them,” says Senator Young. “A lot of people have the comfort of having the option that if pain gets so terrible, that they just say ‘look, I’ve had enough.’ They wanted to choose to end it because they don’t want to fight it anymore, they have that choice.”
By Kevin McManus