- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

ANNAPOLIS | A state Democratic senator withdrew his right to die bill on Thursday, fearing it did not have enough votes to pass a key committee.

Sen. Ronald Young said he probably will not reintroduce the legislation next year because the majority of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is “just totally inflexible on it.”

“The makeup of the committee is not going to change in this administration,” the Frederick Democrat said.

His bill needed six votes in the 11-member panel to move to the Senate floor for debate, but only five senators on the committee had indicated they would vote for the legislation. Mr. Young withdrew the bill rather than have the record show the committee had rejected it.

He said he had the votes to advance the legislation if it had made it to the Senate floor.

A similar bill in the House, sponsored by Delegate Shane Pendergrass, Howard Democrat, has not yet been voted on by a committees. But its chances for survival appear slim in light of Mr. Young’s proposal.

Right to die, or assisted suicide, legislation died in committee last year in the General Assembly amid lawmakers’ concerns about the possibility of an elderly person being coerced into committing suicide.

This year’s legislation calls for allowing only adults who have less than six months to live and are mentally competent to decide for themselves to take their lives with a fatal dose of a prescribed medication. The patients also would need to be physically capable of administering the fatal dose themselves.

To address concerns about coercion, lawmakers added safeguards to the legislation such as requiring doctors to meet one-on-one with patients to ensure their independence and requiring the state to keep records on how many patients opt to die by their own decision.

“If you don’t like it, don’t do it, but don’t tell everybody else what they have to do,” Mr. Young said of opponents of his bill. “I guess maybe I’m on the libertarian side of personal issues. I think it’s an individual choice and that’s how it should be done.”

Still, the legislation met opposition from those who said it could leave terminally ill people considering suicide as the only way to avoid burdening their families, as well as being coerced into the decision — opposition Mr. Young described as “totally garbage.”

“They were people who were against it and they started picking [at the bill],” he said.

Currently, assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont and Montana.

Maryland’s legislation is modeled after Oregon’s law. Since its implementation in 1998, 1,545 patients have requested prescriptions to take their lives, and 991 carried through with it.

In 2015, 218 Oregonians requested prescriptions and 132 used it.

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