Suicide is generally seen as something to be prevented, an awful tragedy — unless the person is disabled, poor, elderly, or ill, and then, it suddenly becomes an act of compassion and dignity. Even as other states are poised to legalize assisted suicide, an assisted suicide bill failed today in Maryland in a tie vote. Having previously failed three times before in the Maryland General Assembly, assisted suicide proponents in the legislature will now need to sponsor the bill again.
Had it been passed, the bill would have allowed some adults with a terminal illness, with less than six months to live, to request a lethal prescription from a doctor with which they could commit suicide. Some who oppose assisted suicide have pointed out the problem with this kind of vague language, however. Many people with chronic illnesses or disabilities would die in less than six months if they stopped taking their medications or treatments, but with treatment, can live for years. Would these people then also fall under the “terminal illness” category?
In order for the bill to advance for a final vote in the Senate, it needed 24 votes out of 47. Instead, it was tied at 23-23, thanks to Democrat Ohio Patterson, who refused to cast a vote. “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 the media afterwards, and then affirmed that he had done his job as a senator the best he could. “I researched it, I talked with folks and my decision today was not to cast a vote. But I think I did my job,” he said. “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.”
Some of the other senators pointed out that several years ago, the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty, under the view that every life — including a criminal’s — is worth protecting. Still others were concerned about the possibility of a mistaken diagnosis leading someone to choose to kill themselves. “There are no do-overs in this type of law,” Sen. Bryan Simonaire said to the Baltimore Sun. “Doctors have and will continue to make mistakes and miscalculations. They are humans. Once a life is taken, it is final.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Will Smith, said he plans to sponsor the bill again in the future, and noted that progress has been made legalization. “I’m proud of the work we did. I’m proud of the product that I brought to the Senate,” Smith said to the Baltimore Sun. “And I’m proud of my ‘Yes’ vote today.”
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