- Associated Press - Thursday, January 28, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland supporters of allowing terminally ill residents to legally end their lives with drugs prescribed by a doctor said Thursday they are trying again after the measure stalled last year.

The bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to obtain prescription drugs they could ingest themselves, if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Supporters have made some changes in hopes of winning over some reluctant lawmakers. One change requires a private conference between a doctor and a person who wants the drugs to avoid potential coercion from another person. The measure also directs the health department to keep records about how many people request drugs to end their lives and how many use them.

Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, said the bill has strong safeguards.

“There are a lot of rumors going around about the slippery slope. They’re just not backed up anyplace this has happened,” Young said. “It’s not come true in Oregon who has had the bill for years, and a third of the people that get the medication there never take it.”

Cristine Marchand, executive director of The Arc Maryland, said the statewide advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities opposes the measure. That, she said, is because the developmentally disabled can feel like a burden to family members, and they are vulnerable to coercion to please family or authority figures. She also said the developmentally disabled are often discriminated against.

“It can be a deadly combination,” Marchand said.

Last year, California became the fifth state to allow the prescription of life-ending drugs. Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana are the other states.

Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat who is a bill sponsor, said she believed the decision in California will help prompt people to take another look at the idea.

“I think that seeing what California did makes us relook at this, makes other legislators and citizens relook at it,” Pendergrass said.

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