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News, Suicide by Physician

Maryland’s ‘End of Life Options Act,’ intended to permit suicide by physician, is defeated

Americans United for Life is grateful to Maryland leaders and advocates for life for the recent defeat of the so-called “End of Life Options Act,” a bill which would have permitted state-endorsed suicide by physician in Maryland, threatened the lives of vulnerable persons, and corroded the rights of conscience of medical providers. Unfortunately, the “End of Life Options Act” is likely to return in the next legislative session, as its defeat occurred only due to the Maryland Senate’s 23-23 deadlock vote. Americans United for Life stands ready to advocate for life if and when Maryland legislators consider similar legislation.

Americans United for life spoke forcefully on the realities of Maryland’s “End of Life Options Act”, revealing the legislation for what it was:

“It would be a tragedy for Maryland to embrace suicide by physician, as HB 399 would do,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life. “It’s a straightforward reality that any law that empowers one person to take the life of another would be unjust, and that reality doesn’t change simply because one happens to be a physician. To permit the intentional and premature ending of human life would open Maryland up to all variety of injustice and abuse, and should be avoided by any legislature concerned with an equitable and justice-oriented society.”

Americans United for Life also provided critical testimony against Maryland’s “End of Life Options Act,” underscoring that suicide is never an appropriate or rational act:

Currently, the overwhelming majority of states—at least 39 states—affirmatively prohibit assisted suicide and impose criminal penalties on anyone who helps another person end his or her life. And since Oregon first legalized the practice in 1996, “about 200 assisted-suicide bills have failed in more than half the states.” In Washington v. Glucksberg, the United States Supreme Court summed up the consensus of the states: “In almost every State—indeed, in almost every western democracy—it is a crime to assist a suicide. The States’ assisted-suicide bans are not innovations. Rather, they are longstanding expressions of the States’ commitment to the protection and preservation of all human life.”

This longstanding consensus among the vast majority of states is unsurprising when one considers, as the Court did, that “opposition to and condemnation of suicide—and, therefore, of assisting suicide—are consistent and enduring themes of our philosophical, legal and cultural heritages.” Indeed, over twenty years ago, the Court in Glucksberg held there is no fundamental right to assisted suicide in the U.S. Constitution, and instead found that there exists for the states “an ‘unqualified interest in the preservation of human life[,]’ … in preventing suicide, and in studying, identifying, and treating its causes.” …

[T]he American Medical Association (AMA) does not support physician-assisted suicide, even for individuals facing the end of their life. The AMA states that “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” In fact, the AMA emphasizes that physicians must “aggressively respond to the needs of the patients” and “respect patient autonomy [and] provide appropriate comfort care and adequate pain control.”