MD Senate Committee Bill Advances End-of-Life Option Act with Troubling Amendments, Advocacy Group Says

Compassion & Choices Urges Senate to Pass More Patient-Friendly Bill
March 22, 2019

Compassion & Choices CEO Kim Callinan testifying at hearing before Maryland House of Delegates on Feb. 15.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings voted 7 to 3 to advance the Maryland End-of-Life Option Act (SB311/HB399), after hours of debate last night on troubling amendments the committee added to the bill. The bipartisan legislation would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less 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 has 69 cosponsors, on March 7 by a 74 to 66 vote.

“We appreciate the strong leadership of committee vice chairman Will Smith in advancing the bill. Unfortunately, the new drastically revised version of this bill includes troubling amendments that we know from our experience in other states will make the bill nearly impossible for patients to access,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, which is leading the grassroots campaign to pass the bill. “The bill in its current form would create many needless hoops and roadblocks for dying patients and put doctors at risk for baseless lawsuits against them for helping dying patients relieve intolerable suffering.”

Today, the Senate Judicial Proceedings approved the bill with amendments that individually appear reasonable, but collectively make the bill unworkable. They include:

  • Stripping the bill of civil immunities for doctors, patients, family members and witnesses.
  • Adding nearly impossible, time-consuming and vague requirements for doctors that expose them to baseless, expensive, wrongful death suits.
  • Erecting barrier after barrier for dying patients: a mandatory psychological evaluation, numerous additional witness requirements, and the cruel reality that they will never find a doctor willing to prescribe aid-in-dying medication.
  • Putting the dying person’s family members in the untenable position of fearing baseless, expensive lawsuits and preventing them from enjoying the precious time they have left with their loved one.

Other supporters included the ACLU, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Libertarian Party of MarylandMaryland Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Anthony Brown, Marylanders for End-of-Life Options, Suburban Maryland Psychiatric Society, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland, United Seniors of Maryland, and WISE (Women Indivisible Strong Effective).

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.

Compassion & Choices
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