The “End-of-Life Option Act” reached the floor of the House of Delegates for the first time this week, and is scheduled for a final vote on Thursday.
A great debate is expected.
Very much unlike Wednesday, when the measure, House Bill 366, sailed through a second reading without any attempt by those who sincerely oppose the measure to amend it.
“It’s pretty clear that the amendments we would have offered would have been rejected. So we’re going to raise the concerns that we have about the bill in the debate on third reader and we’ll leave it at that,” House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said.
He predicted the floor vote on the bill will be “very close.”
“There is a lot of concern about this bill and what it will do for Maryland. And that concern is bipartisan,” Kipke said. “There’s people on both sides of this issue in both parties and I think the vote’s going to be very close.”
The bill, also called the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Act, would allow mentally competent adults who live in Maryland and are suffering from a disease likely to kill them within six months to secure lethal doses of medication from their physicians. Before a doctor could write the prescription, a patient would have to make three separate requests for it, including one in writing, signed by two witnesses. The patient would also have to discuss her decision one-on-one with a doctor.
Physicians and pharmacists are not required to take part in writing or filling a prescription, but must transfer all medical records upon a patient’s request.
It was narrowly passed to the House floor last Friday, in a somewhat unusual vote. By a 24-20 combined vote of the House Health and Government Operations Committee and Judiciary Committee, the measure moved to the floor. Had the committee votes not been combined, the measure would have failed among Judiciary members. A similar combined vote was taken in 2012 on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
There are 50 House cosponsors on the bill this year.
Del. Shane M. Pendergrass (D-Howard) has championed the bill for the last few years; it has failed to be voted out of committee in three of the past four years.
She said Wednesday morning that she believes there are enough votes in the House to pass the measure this year, “but I don’t know until we count them.”
A crossfiled bill remains pending in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which has not advanced the measure in the past. This year, a majority of the committee members are cosponsors of the bill, including the chief sponsor, Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), the committee’s vice chair.