Last month, I joined many other people fighting the fourth attempt in Maryland to legalize physician-assisted suicide. At that time, the Maryland “End of Life Options” bill was in a Maryland house committee. We all were disappointed when the bill was later passed and went to the senate committee.
But then things got interesting.
According to a 3/22/19 Baltimore Sun article “Medically assisted suicide bill advances in Maryland, but with changes that frustrate advocates” , committee chairman Senator Bobby Zirkin said the bill as introduced to the committee was “flawed to its core”, even though he admitted he didn’t want to stand in the way of terminally ill people who wanted assisted suicide.
According to the article, the senate committee members “spent more than 7 hours hashing out dozens of proposed amendments to the bill” before agreeing to vote it out to the full senate with these changes requiring patients:
“Be at least 21 years old, a change from 18 in the original bill.
Have their diagnosis confirmed by their attending physician and a consulting physician. Those two physicians cannot be in the same practice or have a financial relationship
Ask for the prescription three times, including once in private with a doctor and with witnesses.
Undergo a mental health evaluation.”
The senators also set a stricter definition of who could qualify for assisted suicide and removed the prescribing doctors’ immunity “from civil lawsuits related to prescribing the fatal drugs.”
The revised version now heads to the full Maryland Senate for a final vote, probably this week.
Compassion and Choices CEO Kim Callinan says “The bill in its current form would create many needless hoops and roadblocks for dying patients and put doctors at risk for baseless lawsuits” and make assisted suicide “nearly impossible for patients to access.”
Compassion and Choices is urging the Maryland senate to pass a “more patient-friendly bill” that won’t erect “barrier after barrier for dying patients” including “a mandatory psychological evaluation, numerous additional witness requirements” and “preventing them (family members) from enjoying the precious time they have left with their loved one.”
However, the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide coalition correctly notes that even with the revisions, the bill “does not offer sufficient protection of those in our system of health care who are most vulnerable to abuse” and should not be passed.
Ironically and just last year, I wrote about the impatient calls to expand medically assisted suicide from advocates like influential lawyer Thaddeus Pope argued that the some so-called “legal safeguards” like age limits, the definition of terminal illness and the ability to ingest the lethal overdose were actually “burdensome obstacles”.
Trying to educate the public and especially legislators about the dangers of legalized assisted suicide is a daunting task, especially against extremely well-funded groups like Compassion and Choices and a mostly supportive mainstream media.
But the unexpected surprise in the progression of the Maryland assisted suicide bill and the new opposition by the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice to the death certificate falsification in that state’s proposed assisted suicide bill shows how cracks are beginning to grow in the false narrative that legalizing assisted suicide is perfectly safe and harmless to society.