Emotions Run High as Maryland House Approves Medical Aid in Dying Bill

Medically assisted deaths are legal in seven states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington

Following emotional testimony from several state delegates, the Maryland House of Delegates has approved a measure to allow the terminally ill to end their lives with a doctor's help.

Anne Arundel County delegate Sandy Bartlett has fought breast cancer in the past, and she said she can understand why others might want medical assistance to end their lives.

"If it were going to be severe for six months or so and I knew that death was inevitable, yes, I would definitely take that option," she said.

The measure would allow adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs, if a doctor finds they have six months or less to live. A patient must request the treatment on three separate occasions, once in writing with a witness present, in order to receive the prescription.

The physician must then certify that the person has the capacity to make the decision, and the prescription can only be self-administered. Patients taking the prescription have the option to stop at any time.

Supporters in Maryland have tried several times in recent years to pass the bill, but it had previously stalled in committee. 

Some detractors argue that the treatment could be abused by those hoping to end the life of someone in their care. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke opposes the bill and said it's more important to improve end-of-life care.

"We need to make sure that we have access to palliative pain management at the end of life to make sure people don't suffer," Kipke said.

Laws allowing medical aid in dying are legal in seven states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — as well as D.C.

The House voted 74-66 for the bill Thursday. It now goes to the Senate.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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