- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A controversial bill that would give certain terminally ill people the ability to end their lives with a prescription drug needs more study, lawmakers said Thursday.

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act is likely headed for a summer workgroup.

Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, who proposed the legislation in the House, said she hoped both chambers would be able to work together to “look at the bill and what we need to do to make it as good as it can be for the state.”

“I think what people have to process is what the bill really means,” Pendergrass said. “It doesn’t mean assisting someone in taking his life; it’s allowing someone with only six months to live the opportunity to have control over the timing of that.”

Only five states have made it legal for terminally ill people to hasten their deaths.

Hundreds of people converged on Annapolis earlier this session to rally in favor or against the bill, which would only apply to people given no more than six months to live.

Hours of emotional public testimony were heard, including from former Baltimore Ravens player O.J. Brigance, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, and chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee that considered the bill in the Senate chamber, said action on the legislation needed to be based on more than a one day hearing.

“This is a far more nuanced debate,” Zirkin said. “You don’t want to legalize suicide in general.”

In a statement from Brandi Alexander, Maryland outreach manager of Compassion and Choices, she called the momentum behind the Death With Dignity Act “unstoppable.”

Pendergrass said she had not known whether the bill would make it through the session but was not surprised at the public reaction.

“To me, the most poignant statement made in the hearing was the person who said … ‘every family is one bad death away from supporting the bill,’” Pendergrass said.

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