Marylanders need health care, not assisted suicide


The Maryland Legislature is expected to again consider an assisted suicide bill in its new session. Once again, disability activists will be a prominent part of the coalition to oppose the bill as a discriminatory overlay to a beleaguered and inequitable health care system.

The assisted suicide bill, authorizes health care providers to write lethal prescriptions for people who are considered terminally ill, and grants broad legal immunity to everyone involved in their deaths. It does not provide medical and palliative alternatives. The only course of action it facilitates is death.

People have every right to say no to treatment they don’t want. However, there is a sharp distinction between a patient deciding when not to have life-prolonging treatment and a doctor actively prescribing lethal drugs for the purpose of directly causing the patient’s death. As Dr. Joseph Marine, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has stated, assisted suicide “is not medical care. It has no basis in medical science or medical tradition … the drug concoctions used to end patients’ lives … come from the euthanasia movement and not from the medical profession or medical research.”

Physician-assisted suicide is depicted by its supporters as a choice for patients who have tried everything; however, many Marylanders do not have access to “everything.” The medical system is focused on reducing costs as it remains profit-driven. Many people struggle to obtain basic care. Yet there still are “quality of life” prejudices against elders and people with disabilities, and people of color still cope with deadly health disparities. Survival rates for cystic fibrosis, for example, vary depending on the type of insurance a person has available. With the system so broken and no consensus about solutions either on the state or federal level, it is inherently dangerous to legalize assisted suicide for any class of patients…

It is telling that supporters of last year’s assisted-suicide bill were critical to the point of abandoning the bill when quite minimal patient protections were added to it. Their concern seemed to be not in avoiding needless premature deaths, but in preventing delays and expenditure of resources. For example, a desire to die may be fueled by depression or other psychosocial factors causing suicidal ideation. But some proponents objected to a requirement that a person get a psychiatric evaluation before being given a lethal prescription because “There is a severe shortage of mental health professionals in Maryland,…[especially] in rural areas.” This seems like a tacit admission that Maryland residents may be underserved in their mental health needs at a time when they need services the most…

Read more at The Frederick News Post…

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