Proponents of physician-assisted suicide struggled to answer the tough questions thrown at them at last week’s Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on SB 418. The Committee met late into the night with Senators raising significant concerns with the bill and its lack of protections.
The message from proponents, led by the national group Compassion & Choices, was that any protections in the law would stall a patient’s ability to get a lethal prescription from their physician. And questions surrounding these increased protections continuously baffled witnesses.
There is nothing in this bill that would require a mental health screening, or ensure a physician is present at the time the lethal dose is taken. Proponents’ response to these concerns is that the Maryland healthcare system can’t support these types of mandates. This is a weak excuse when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable populations who will be at risk if this bill is passed.
In fact, across the board proponents neglect to mention the issues in this legislation that would put our most vulnerable populations at risk. One witness in support of the bill, even referred to the disabled community’s concerns surrounding abuse and coercion of the vulnerable as irresponsible.
The disabled community is united in their opposition to this bill based on what this might mean for many who already consider themselves a burden to society and their loved ones. This is a community that has consistently faced discrimination in healthcare laws. To not consider the threat to this community is irresponsible.
Powerful testimony was presented by an elder law attorney who raised the significant potential for elder abuse surrounding this legislation. She stated that in her experience, it is very common that family members are coercing elderly relatives for financial reasons. In confusing answers, proponents pushed back against protections that would disqualify witnesses who would benefit financially from a death, using the unacceptable excuse that it would leave family out of this process.
The Senate Committee brought some important questions to the table and it was clear that proponents were not prepared to answer. Maybe it’s because they know the physician assisted suicide bill in Maryland is indefensible.
Editor’s note. This appeared at stopassistedsuicidemd.org.