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Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, explains her bill to allow people given no more than six months to live the option of filling a prescription for drugs to hasten their death, during a rally Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Annapolis, Md. Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, is standing left, and Del. Karen Lewis Young, D-Frederick, is standing right. (AP Photo)

Supporters of right-to-die bill rally in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS — Alexa Fraser’s 90-year-old father Alex suffered from advanced Parkinson’s disease. He injured himself in painful falls and struggled to eat and drink. On Wednesday, while rallying for right-to-die legislation in Maryland, she described the difficulty her father had in ending his life last year on his terms, finally succeeding with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

He first took an overdose of pain pills, but they didn’t work. Then, he tried to cut his wrists, but he no longer had the dexterity. Finally, he suggested obliquely to her last summer that he would use the gun he kept by his bedside table.

“It was terribly sad, terribly hard and I felt respect. I felt loving,” Fraser said. “I felt it was what I needed to do to treat him as a mature, competent adult living completely consistently with what he said he would do.”

A measure before Maryland lawmakers seeks to stop the kind of difficulties Alex Fraser had in ending his life. The bill would allow adults given only six months to live the ability to get a prescription for drugs to hasten their death.

“It gives them some semblance of control,” said Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, who is sponsoring legislation, along with Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick. “They can’t stop the dying process. That’s not an option. What they can do is have some control over when and how.”

To qualify, an adult patient must be given a terminal diagnoses from their physician. It would be up to the patient to use the prescription. Pendergrass said her bill requires the patient to make three requests.

“The person, the patient, must do this by himself or herself,” Pendergrass said.

Leading lawmakers in the Legislature have left the door open to a bill passing this session.

“It could get wings late in the session,” House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Wednesday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, told reporters in January he would watch the progress of the bill in the House. Miller, a Catholic, said that while his religion says he should be opposed to it, he said doesn’t look with disfavor on the idea.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he does not have a position on the bill.

The Maryland Catholic Conference has joined a broad-based coalition against the legislation. Opponents say it’s nearly impossible to predict whether someone has six months or less to live. They say that’s among the most compelling reasons to oppose the bill. Critics also say the bill does not require doctors to give patients a screening for depression before providing the prescription.

Washington, Montana, New Mexico and Vermont are the only states that have made it legal for terminally ill people to hasten their deaths. More than half of the nation’s states have legislation pending. The issue received national attention last year when Brittany Maynard, an Oregon woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, decided to take her own life with prescription drugs and used her scheduled death to advocate for more acceptance of the idea.

One comment

  1. Interesting. The Maryland Catholic Conference appears to oppose this legislation, yet, not one of the three prelates of Washington, Baltimore or Wilmington, have asked that their priests in the parishes to preach against this Bill on Sundays. It would be a surprise to learn that this sinful behavior was even mentioned by a single priest since it was introduced.

    One might think that the bishops and priests would be smart enough to figure out that if they were to convince the faithful in the pews to oppose this Bill, they in turn would put pressure on the politicians who represent them. And, of course they are that smart. But actually stopping this legislation is not that high on their agenda. At the top is but one goal––the re-distribution of wealth.

    As we now see, the bishops of the Catholic Church are actually no different (and worse in many respects) than the politicans who are leading us all over the cliff. However, the bishops, unlike the pols, supposedly have the responsibility of leading us to heaven. But listen to what they say. It should be clear that saving souls is the farthest thing from their mind, for to do so may “offend” some people, and they certainly don’t want to do that.

    So instead of doing the job for which they were consecrated, the bishops or their representatives put on a show in Annapolis so foolish Catholics think they are actually doing their job and continue to contribute to the never ending “second collections”. Sadly, if it were only this issue we’d be most fortunate. But it’s not. For in the eyes of the “modernist bishops of the Catholic Church that grew out of Vatican II, sin is now a thing of the past.

    But a day will come when they will all learn otherwise. And for their sake and the sake of the many souls who will otherwise be lost, I hope they learn in their lifetime.