By Dave Andrusko
If ever there was an illustration of the power of one vote, it came today in the Maryland Senate.
On March 7, proponents of a Physician-Assisted Suicide bill had prevailed in the House, 74-66.
They needed 24 votes to advance Sen. Will Smith’s “End of Life Options Act” to a final vote in the Senate.
They got 23!
The outcome was eerily reminiscent (in reverse) of what happened in New Jersey. Their “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” needed 21 votes to pass in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly. They received 21 votes in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly.
“Maryland Right to Life’s grassroots base did a wonderful job letting their legislators know their opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide,” said Ernest Ohlhoff, executive director of Maryland Right to Life. “2019 marks the fourth time the measure has been defeated in Maryland. ”
Darla St. Martin, president of Maryland Right to Life, told NRL News Today, “The effectiveness of the phone campaign was echoed by a staffer in Senate President Mike Miller’s office late yesterday when one of our chapter leaders called to ask Senate President Miller to vote against PAS. The obviously tired staffer answered the 5:00 pm call saying, ‘Is this about SB 311?’”
Yet the fight is not necessarily final and complete. The session does not adjourn until April 8 and the Senate has the option of taking up the House bill , which was different than the one in the Senate.
According to the Baltimore Sun’s Pamela Wood, today’s debate went on for about an hour. She quoted from both sides, including this from state Republican Bryan Simonaire:
“There are no do-overs in this type of law,” he said “Doctors have and will continue to make mistakes and miscalculations. They are humans. Once a life is taken, it is final.”
Wood’s story added some background and context:
The measure faced more scrutiny in the Senate, where a committee added further requirements for patients and doctors. The bill was changed so much that some advocates for the bill worried that few patients would have been able to request medication from doctors.
Wood was referring to the muscle behind the bill, Compassion and Choices.
As amended, the “End of Life Options Act” would apply to patients ages 21 or older (originally 18 years) who must have an “irreversible” condition that affects their quality of life and that “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty” will result in death within six months. (The original language was “reasonable medical judgment” that the individual is likely to die within six months.)
Moreover there must also be a medical evaluation and the request must be made three times. (As bioethicist Wesley J. Smith noted, that was enough to cause Compassion and Choices, to withdraw its support.)
After today’s vote, Compassion and Choices, called these “troubling amendments,” but expressed confidence that had the bill passed the Senate, the bill “could have been fixed if the legislative process had continued” and vowed today’s defeat was only a “temporary setback.”