Advocates for MD End-of-Life Option Act Vow to Fight to Pass Law in Near Future After Senate Fails to Pass Bill in Tie Vote
Say “It Is Only Matter of Time” Until Legislature Passes Law Because of Public Demand
(Annapolis, MD) Advocates for the Maryland End-of-Life Option Act (SB311/HB399) expressed disappointment that the Senate failed to pass the legislation today in a 23 to 23 tie vote, but vowed to continue fighting to enact the bill into law in the near future. The bipartisan bill would have given mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take if their suffering becomes intolerable and die peacefully in their sleep. The House of Delegates passed the bill, which had 69 cosponsors, on March 7 by a 74 to 66 vote.
“We appreciate the strong leadership of the bill sponsors, Delegate Shane Pendergrass and Senator Will Smith, who advanced the bill farther than ever before,” said Kim Callinan, a 22-year Maryland resident and CEO of Compassion & Choices, which led the grassroots campaign to pass the bill. “While the Senate bill had troubling amendments, we believe the bill could have been fixed if the legislative process had continued.”
On Monday, the New Jersey Assembly and Senate passed similar legislation to the Maryland House-passed bill, the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504), after debating the issue since 2012 and Governor Phil Murphy promptly vowed to sign the bill into law. The Maryland Legislature has been debating the issue since 2015.
“This temporary setback in Maryland is deeply disappointing to our brave, seriously ill advocates,” said Callinan. “But we are confident that it is just a matter of time before a version of this legislation similar to the House-passed bill, which is based on proven laws in eight other jurisdictions, becomes law. Maryland voters strongly support medical aid in dying and terminally ill residents desperately need this option to end needless suffering, so they can die in peace.”
Medical aid in dying has been successfully implemented for a combined 40 years in Washington, D.C. and seven states, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
“I am heartbroken that this legislation did not pass both houses, but I greatly appreciate the lawmakers who supported it,” said Chevy Chase resident Marcy Rubin, who has incurable, stage IV breast cancer that has spread to her lungs and liver. “I just hope I am still around next year to help pass this legislation, so I have the option to die peacefully when my time comes, rather than suffer needlessly.”
A Public Policy Polling last month showed Marylanders support medical aid in dying by a 3-1 margin (66% to 20%), including majority support from African Americans (59%) and every other demographic group (Independents: 73%, Democrats: 70%, Republicans: 53%, Whites: 69%, Catholics: 65%, Protestants: 62%, Jews: 67%, and Muslims: 52%). The Maryland State Medical Society adopted a neutral stance on the bill after a 2016 survey showed most of its members supported it.
In addition, four local newspapers have editorialized in support of passing the End-of-Life Option Act: The [Annapolis] Capital Gazette, The Washington Post, The [Easton] Star Democrat and The [California, MD] Enterprise.