ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to request a lethal prescription to hasten their death failed by one vote in the state Senate on Wednesday.
According to the Capital Gazette, the bill reached a tie vote of 23-23 during a second reading voice vote—just one vote short of proceeding.
Sen. Obie Patterson, D-Prince George, declined to vote on the measure either way.
“I did not cast a vote simply because I could not bring myself to move right or left on the bill, and therefore I didn’t vote at all,” he told reporters.
Patterson is a member of Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington.
“I researched it, I talked with folks, and my decision today was not to cast a vote,” he stated. “But I think I did my job. I did not relinquish my responsibility to thoroughly review all of the concerns I had about the bill. At the end of the day, I felt I could not cast a vote.”
As previously reported, Senate Bill 311, also known as the End of Life Options Act, had been presented this legislative season by Sen. Will Smith, D-Silver Spring, and would have permitted residents who have been diagnosed with an “irreversible” medical condition that “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty” will result in death within six months to request a life-ending prescription from their doctor.
The bill passed a Senate committee last Friday 8-3, undergoing several changes in the process. A bill with language identical to the original Senate proposal already passed the House of Delegates last month.
Citybizlist reports that 10 Senators spoke during the one hour debate prior to the vote, some arguing for personal autonomy, and others citing religious or moral objections.
“That decision is between me and my God and nobody else,” asserted Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery.
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, outlined that his father actually triumphed over cancer, and went on to live for years afterward. He noted the permanency of such a decision, remarking, “There are no do-overs in this type of law” and “Once a life is taken, it is final.”
Maryland Against Physician-Assisted Suicide, one of the main opponents of the measure, expressed elation on Thursday that the bill felt short of advancement.
“This is a great victory for everyone who fought so hard to educate Maryland legislators about why physician-assisted suicide is unnecessary, dangerous, and wrong for our residents,” it said in a post on its website.
2019 is the third time that the bill has been presented before the Maryland legislature, and sponsor Sen. Will Smith, D-Silver Spring, says it will not be the last.
“At the end of the day, this was about giving folks a modicum of autonomy when they’re facing their end of life,” he stated following the vote, according to citybizlist. “I think the exercise has made all of us a little bit more well informed.”
As previously reported, a number of states have considered, or are still considering, physician-assisted suicide this legislative season, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Nevada, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. While an effort in Arkansas, submitted by a Republican lawmaker, failed in committee, a bill to legalize the practice was passed by the New Jersey legislature and is expected to be signed into law.
Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in Thy hand.” Job 14:5 also teaches that man’s “days are determined” and “the number of his months are with Thee.” Ecclesiastes 3:2 similarly says that there is “[a] time to be born, and a time to die,” and Hebrews 9:27 outlines that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”