WASHINGTON (WMAL) – A bill allowing terminally ill Marylanders to get life-ending medication takes a major step forward Thursday. The House passed the End-of-Life Option Act with a 74 to 66 vote.
The bill – which failed to make it out of committee in three previous sessions – allows terminally-ill adults with six months or fewer to live to get prescriptions for life-ending medications. In order to be prescribed the medication, patients would have to request it three times – twice verbally and once in writing – and also get counseling from their doctors and be deemed to have the capacity to make such a decision.
The vote came after personal stories from proponents and opponents.
Proponent Del. Eric Luedtke said after his mother was diagnosed with stage IIIB esophageal cancer she did radiation and chemotherapy for a year and seemed to be getting better. When she took a turn for the worse, she decided to stop treatment. Despite her doctor’s efforts to keep her pain in check, Luedtke said it became unmanageable, and she lost the ability to swallow solid foods, control her body and walk.
He said a few days before she died she drank liquid morphine in an attempt to take her own life to end the pain and humiliation she was experiencing. A day after that she went into a coma and died two days later.
“Despite my personal hatred for suicide, I began to ask myself what right I had as a government official, and even as her son, to dictate to her how her life should end. What right do any of us have to determine that for another individual?” Luedtke asked.
Del. Cheryl Glenn said after her sister had a stroke she was told she could recover, but she decided she didn’t want to live and stopped eating and drinking. The week before she died, Glenn called her estranged newphew and told him to come home and say goodbye to his dying mother.
“That moment that he saw his mother and she saw him, the walls of division crumbled, and they held each other. She cried, and he cried,” Glenn said.
She added if her sister had the option to end her life, she would have done it in a heartbeat.
“She would have left this world without making peace with her only son, and that was good for her, and that was good for him,” Glenn said.
After the vote people from both sides reacted.
“As someone who has been battling stage IV breast cancer for six years it means everything to me that this bill will allow me to choose a peaceful option,” said Marcy Gray Rubin in a statement issued by the Compassion and Choices Group.
The Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide group issued a statement expressing its disappointment in the vote.
“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,” the statement said.
The bill now heads to the Maryland Senate for consideration.
If it passes both chambers and is signed into law, Maryland would become the eighth state to legalize medical aid in dying. It is now legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
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