Somber House Narrowly Pass Suicide Option for Terminally ill

March 12, 2019

Shuffling papers. Murmured conversations. The tap-tap-tap of people using laptops.

There’s a certain amount of ambient sound on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates when the legislature is in session.

But on Thursday, a somber silence descended on the chamber as delegates listened to one after another of their colleagues stand and share personal stories in a debate about how the terminally ill should end their lives.

After close to 90 minutes of emotional testimony, the House narrowly passed HB399, formally titled the End-of-Life Option Act, making physician assisted suicide, as opponents prefer to call it, one step closer to becoming legal in the state. The vote was 74 to 66, three more than necessary for a constitutional majority.

About two dozen Democrats joined all the Republicans in opposing the bill.

This is the fourth time the legislature has taken up the measure, having failed to pass it out of committee in three previous years.

“I thank the body for compelling debate on a very sensitive issue. It was great on both sides,” said House Speaker Mike Busch after calling for the vote.

The bill is sponsored by Del. Shane E. Pendergrass, D-Howard, with 49 other delegates as co-sponsors. It’s cross-filed as  SB0311 in the Senate with Sen. Will Smith, D-Montgomery, as lead sponsor and 18 senators as co-sponsors.

It allows a physician to prescribe life-ending drugs to a patient over age 18 who is terminally ill with less than 6 months to live, after the patient has made the request on at least three separate occasions and at least once in writing.

Personal autonomy

In the floor debate, some supporters argued for personal autonomy. Several opponents objected on moral or religious grounds. Many shared personal stories of suffering and loss and explained how those experiences affected their decision to vote either “red” or “green.”

One delegate questioned what amount of influence insurance companies would have over patients’ end-of-life decisions.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, vice chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee, where the bill was assigned, said the question of what insurance companies will or won’t cover is not the subject of the bill.

“It doesn’t say they’ll be denied treatments” before receiving a prescription for lethal drugs, she said. “It does not preclude them from getting the help and treatment they need… It’s a conversation with the doctor, not the insurance company.”

Pena-Melnyk said “90% of people that are terminally ill under this bill are in hospice…They’re already having that discussion with their physician.”

A delegate from the Eastern Shore also questioned whether it was appropriate to use public money through Medicare and Medicaid for physician-assisted suicide when some life-giving treatments may not be covered.

Slippery slope

Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, D-Prince George’s, worried the bill was a “slippery slope” that would lead people to perceive they have a “duty” to die to save resources or prevent themselves from being a burden to others, or that the scope of the bill would be expanded in the future beyond the terminally ill.

House Minority Leader Nic Kipke questioned how the bill would affect vulnerable populations, such as the poor, people with mental illness or those in situations of domestic or elder abuse. Kipke said the bill lacks a psychological evaluation as a safeguard.

Heartfelt stories

While points of the bill were debated, much of the testimony consisted of heartfelt stories about personal illness and family loss.

Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, choked up as he recounted his opposition to suicide after three members of his family tried to take their own lives. However, witnessing the pain his mother bore before she succumbed to cancer made him rethink his position.

“Despite my personal hatred for suicide, I began to ask myself what right did I have as a government official or her son to dictate how her life should end?…Should the government dictate to people that their only option is to die in pain? I don’t believe anymore that we have that right,” he said.

Del. Sandy Bartlett, D-Anne Arundel, shared her personal story of pain and suffering battling breast cancer. Others talked about friends, relatives and former colleagues who experienced extreme illness and were at the brink of death, who bounced back and continued living for months or years afterward.

“We don’t know what tomorrow holds,” said Del. Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, who voted against the bill.

The bill must pass the Senate before it is sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, who has said he has struggled with the issue.

By Diane Rey

For Maryland Reporter

Reach Diane at .

45 Responses to Somber House Narrowly Pass Suicide Option for Terminally ill

  1. Nick on March 12, 2019 at 9:55 am

    So it’s ok in MD to commit the ultimate sin? Wow

    • What on March 12, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      Suicide is the ultimate sin???

      • Nick on March 13, 2019 at 10:44 am

        It is a one way ticket to hell

        • Science on March 18, 2019 at 12:39 pm

          Proof? REAL proof of anything you speak of…..

    • Stop&Think on March 12, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      It seems like the ultimate sin would be to watch someone die an agonizing prolonged death just to apease your view.

    • Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 2:04 pm

      Luckily, if this passes, you can make that decision for yourself and your family members. On the flip side people in excruciating and incurable pain that are terminally ill and are ready to stop that pain can have the option of ending their suffering. That is how freedom works, it allows people to make their own choices even if they go against your particular religion. That is not forcing you to do anything except stay out of other peoples life choices.

    • The Dude on March 14, 2019 at 11:37 am

      That’s like, your opinion man.

  2. Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Why would anyone be against letting someone comfortably fade away as apposed to living a few extra weeks, months, or years in agony. This is not allowing someone who is temporarily depressed to end their own life, it is allowing people who are in constant pain with no hope of surviving end their lives to escape the excruciating inevitability. If people are against this they are more then welcome to suffer through their final days or let their family member suffer but the rest of us with a heart and conscience should not be stopped from doing the right thing for ourselves and our family.

    • Stop&Think on March 12, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      You make a very clear case.
      I suspect that like me, you’ve had to watch others suffer with no hope.
      Their suffering was pointless.
      I don’t beleive that other people’s moral or religious views should dictate how I live (or die).
      … and, I can’t help but wonder how commited they’ll be when their time comes.

      • joep222 on March 13, 2019 at 8:12 am

        Suffering is never pointless.

        And you have people’s moral view dictate how you live every day by simply examining just ome of the basic laws that man has: murder, rape, theft, child abuse.

        The secular humanist has no basis for morality if we are all just a product of astronomical random chance.

    • Joep222 on March 13, 2019 at 5:33 am

      There is nothing compassionate about purposefully ending someone’s life, no matter how much they are suffering. And if they die without Jesus Christ, their suffering here on earth is merely the beginning of their pain for how they rejected God and His gift of life that He has given them.

      No one has ever self created, so they have to right to take their own life. This bill is evil.

      • Wiggy on March 14, 2019 at 5:10 am

        Please go to church and pray for all of us!

      • Anonymous on March 14, 2019 at 8:12 am

        Your joking right? Your whole book and whole religion is based on the beliefs of a handful of humans that decided to document what values they thought a person should live by. Maybe you are one of the crazy ones that acutely believe God wrote the book and made the rules. If we were to base laws on a religion which one should we pick? There are hundreds of religions and just because you picked one or your parents picked one for you does not mean you have the right to impose your particular beliefs on everyone else. Let us make our own choices with our own life (as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others) and you continue on with your choices. This is not forcing you to do anything it is allowing others a choice. If our choice leads us to your hell that is our cross to bear not yours. This is what free will is all about.

        • joep222 on March 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm

          “Your whole book and whole religion is based on the beliefs of a handful of humans that decided to document what values they thought a person should live by.”

          Not correct at all. And I follow the truth of the Bible, but I don’t follow religion.

          The Bible is the word of God, it is not merely a belief of a few humans. The men that wrote the Bible (inspired by the Holy Spirit) did not decide what was or was not in the Bible. God did.

          “Maybe you are one of the crazy ones that acutely believe God wrote the book and made the rules.”

          God used men inspired by the Holy Spirit. And for those who reject the Bible, I am not surprised that they consider me crazy.

          “If we were to base laws on a religion which one should we pick?”

          I never said we should base any laws on religion. Law should be based on the truth of God, not religion (they are not the same thing).

          “There are hundreds of religions and just because you picked one or your parents picked one for you ”

          I don’t follow religion, nor did my parent choose it for me. I follow Jesus Christ by His grace.

          “does not mean you have the right to impose your particular beliefs on everyone else.”

          1. I am not “imposing” by beliefs on anyone.
          2. So the secular world has the right to impose their religion on me by enacting such abominable laws? That is called hypocrisy.

          “Let us make our own choices with our own life”

          Never said you could not make your own choices, but you will answer to God for the choices you make and He does not turn a blind eye to sin.

          ” (as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others)”

          Clearly this law does harm others as well as the individual doing such a thing.

          “This is not forcing you to do anything”

          All that evil needs to succeed is for no one to stand against it [Edmund Burke]

          “If our choice leads us to your hell that is our cross to bear not yours”

          I love you enough to warn you of the wrath of God that is coming against your sin. However I am not taking your sin upon my shoulders, which I couldn’t do even if I wanted to.

          “This is what free will is all about.”

          No one has autonomous free will except God.

          • Anonymous on March 18, 2019 at 8:22 am

            That is great that this is your belief but in the end it is just that, your belief.
            “So the secular world has the right to impose their religion on me by enacting such abominable laws? That is called hypocrisy.”
            How is this imposing anything on you? No one is forcing you to end your life as described by the law, it is just giving us with compassion an option. If it was illegal that would be forcing people, with the new law it gives people the choice. Isn’t that what freedom is all about? Let me worry about how I answer to God, you and your religious beliefs are not the decider of my life. You need to read the bible again about freedom and free will. In one sentence you say God is my only judge then you judge me in the next sentence. Talk about hypocritical.

          • Joep22 on March 19, 2019 at 5:16 am

            The Bible never says you are free to sin with no consequences. The Bible also says you shall not murder.

            There is no compassion in allowing or encouraging someone to commit murder.

            The.Bible never says we have autonomous free will not a right to commit sin.

            The Bible say to judge with a righteous judgment, that is to examine thing in the light of God’s truth. So I am not being hypocritical.

      • Common Sense on March 14, 2019 at 11:40 am

        Keep YOUR religion out of OUR politics.
        Im not making you go out and get married to someone of the same sex, so why can you force your opinion on to everyone else.

        • Joep222 on March 16, 2019 at 8:48 am

          I live by what I believe and that is the truth of God by His grace. I am not forcing anyone to do anything. And you think preserving life is forcing religion then you are simply displaying hatred of God.

          And if you support this bill, you are being hypocritical by imposing your will on others.

      • Hypocrites on March 14, 2019 at 6:31 pm

        People put animals down all the time and what are we ANIMALS…. Does that mean all the precious animal parents are going to hell.. They didn’t choose to the owner and vet made the decision. So stop with the judgement on other peoples lives let people own themselves. Its not Gods choice to judge or whomever you worship. As long as you make peace with yourself that’s all that matters.

        • Joep22 on March 16, 2019 at 8:52 am

          We are not animals. We are made in the image of God by Him. No one self created so no one has the right to take their own life.

          And peace with God is all that matters. That can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ.

  3. Ziggy on March 12, 2019 at 10:17 am

    that is hard, I don’t think stopping a beating heart is our call, not with abortion or selected suicide, it’s something I just couldn’t do. I can understand why people would want this, the end of life can be a horrible and painful thing for the patient and the family. it would be a hard decision for anyone to make

    • 56 on March 12, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      Who died and made you the decision maker for someone else? If you can understand why people would want it, then you should be in favor of it. And then when your time comes, you can choose to not take this route, since you would prefer to spend your last days on earth in pain. Or maybe you can live for 35 years as a vegetable when you’d rather just end it. It should be available to people that want this option.

    • Stop&Think on March 12, 2019 at 2:00 pm

      I agree, it’s not our call … it’s the person who is dying who should be able to make that choice.

  4. Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Is life insurance null and void if they choose the suicide route?

    • MikeinMorganza on March 12, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      That’s a good point about life insurance. Many have a suicide clause.

      • Anonymous on March 13, 2019 at 7:42 pm

        Suicide clause is typically only a short period of time. Mine was 2 years. After that, it wasn’t applicable.

        • Dr. Kevorkian III on March 16, 2019 at 9:20 am

          Nice! Are you gonna punch your ticket soon?

  5. MurlandNative on March 12, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I’m hopeing the majority of the house will quickly utilize this option on themselves! Fingers crossed!

  6. Russ Dobson on March 12, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    So now we have given people the right to pre-determine their death. Another unbelievable step in taking God out of the equation and making the state the facilitator of this madness. What is next for the “great” state of Maryland? Doctor assisted infanticide.

    • joep222 on March 13, 2019 at 8:15 am

      “Doctor assisted infanticide.”

      That has been happening since 1975 since Roe v. Wade passed. We live in a culture that loves and worships death.

  7. Publius on March 12, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Hard cases make bad law.

  8. Josie burns on March 12, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Not our call. They have drugs to keep those comfortable until it’s time. These democrats are really getting carried away but you can’t time death.

  9. Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    sorry to hear that. this article gives the bill number. time to call the senate & tell them to oppose.

  10. Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    this reminds me of the females that sob and tell you what a tremendously difficult decision it was for them to have an abortion, but, none-the-less, they did it. Its as if, so long as it was a hard decision for them to make, it was ok to do it, they’re qualified, they’re off-the-hook.

  11. Anonymous on March 12, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Scalia once asked an astute question: where do you see in the Constitution, your right . . . . . to die? You have a right-to-life, but to die?

  12. Joep222 on March 13, 2019 at 5:29 am

    This is a sign of God’s judgment on a nation: where life has no value and death is celebrated and idolized. And a corrupt government that calls evil good and good evil.

    • Nick on March 13, 2019 at 10:36 am

      Not to mention a one way ticket to hell

  13. LAM on March 13, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    While intended to give the option only to the terminally ill, passing the legislation signals to anyone suffering, and especially teens who sometimes don’t have the resources to handle intense emotional suffering, that suicide is an acceptable solution to end pain. It says that as a society we approve of ending your pain through taking your life.

  14. AliceW on March 13, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Hopefully the good governor will veto it! Let the Democrats over ride it so they can take full credit!

    • Anonymous on March 14, 2019 at 8:25 am

      So in your view we should outlaw divorce, cheating, premarital sex, etc… We can bring back stoning for all the rule breakers. Oh, that’s right, religious people only get righteous about things that don’t directly affect them. Hopefully, for mercies sake, this law passes and many years from now when you are suffering on your death bed wising for the end you can spend your last months in agonizing pain praying to your God to end it all. The rest of us will have a choice for a more humane option. We will continue to use our free will in the way that we see fit.

    • NoRinos4Us on March 14, 2019 at 9:02 am

      Rino, Anti-Trump Governor, who bends over for the Democrats. He’s a disappointment and a POS.

  15. Hyp-Hypo-Hypocritical on March 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I would like to remind everyone, SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE; It’s kind of like a big deal the founding fathers believed in and yeah keep your religion out of our laws. We get on our high horses about Shariah law in muslim countries but now here you all are trying to discredit a future law based on it going against a major religious communities beliefs in this country? Do you all not see how hypocritical you all are?

    • Joep22 on March 16, 2019 at 9:14 am

      The 1st Amendment does not mean you cannot involve your beliefs in politics. It was designed to protect the citizens from government interference in their beliefs. Everyone involves their beliefs in their politics, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist or any other worldview.

    • Unknown on March 17, 2019 at 11:37 am

      Our religion is in your laws, has been from the start. It’s the basis of all of our laws, or didn’t you know that?

  16. JebBush on March 18, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Well Said