ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Legalized assisted suicide — it’s a controversial topic with passionate arguments on both sides. Now Maryland could again be at the forefront of the debate.
A candidate for governor now proposes decriminalizing the practice.
Mike Hellgren has an in-depth look at the hot-button issue.
She says it’s about dignity and choice. In a recent Gallup Poll, more than 50 percent of Americans agree with this end-of-life option.
Like most states, Maryland criminalizes assisted suicide. But Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Democrat running for governor, told WJZ, if elected, she would introduce “Death with Dignity” legislation, allowing people to get medicine from their doctor that would end their lives.
“If terminally ill, mentally competent adults choose to end their life, they should be able to seek a life-ending dose of medicine from their physician,” Mizeur said in a policy proposal released late Tuesday.
She doesn’t like the term assisted suicide.
“This is about compassionate care, it’s about choices and it’s about respecting the wishes of our seniors,” Mizeur said.
Under Mizeur’s proposal, the patient must be terminally ill, mentally competent, get the prescription in advance and self-administer it.
Similar policies are legal in a handful of states—Washington, Oregon, Montana and Vermont—and have generated heated debate.
“In other words, they would rather be dead than disabled,” said Rhona Wiebe, CCD Ending of Life.
Maryland made headlines before on this topic after Baltimore doctor Lawrence Egbert’s arrests for giving direction to the terminally ill.
“How come you can take your dog and put your dog down, whereas your mother–who’s suffering just the same or similarly to your dog—you can’t put down?” Dr. Egbert said in May 2013.
The Maryland Catholic Conference told WJZ:
“We all recognize the importance of preparing for the end of our lives and sharing our wishes with loved ones. But we also recognize, as do highly respected medical organizations, the bright line between providing patients with adequate pain management and actively providing a patient with the means to commit suicide.
“It’s for this reason that the American Medical Association, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, and National Council on Disability agree with us on this issue.”
But Mizeur, who has supported other controversial policies including legalizing marijuana, is not backing down.
“Having a conversation about this issue is about helping to eliminate the fear from it,” she said.
Right now in Maryland, assisting a suicide is a felony, carrying up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, only 71 of the 122 people who obtained the drugs used them to end their lives last year.
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