House and Senate Hearing Recap

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Again, we know that the legislation to implement physician assisted suicide appears to thankfully have been defeated in this session, but we still want to recap the House and Senate hearings held on this bill.  This is instructive for remembering how this legislation can be defeated in the future.

In fact, this recap should instill resolve and confidence that Maryland will never see this legislation passed, given the completely unanswered questions that so many testifiers outlined.

Here are some of the most important points:

On uncertain diagnosis and prognosis:

“A recent publication from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled Improving

Diagnosis in Health Care (National Academy Press, September 2015) states that ‘diagnostic errors – inaccurate or delayed diagnoses – persist throughout all setting of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients’” – Dr. Steven Levenson, private practice

“This six-month condition is touted by the bill’s proponents as a critical safeguard to limit the bill’s scope to only those who are truly dying. Yet when the timeline is an educated guess, that “safeguard” is meaningless. We know from Oregon and Washington that patients who lived for 9, 12, 15, 24 months or more past their initial six-month diagnosis were all prescribed physician assisted suicide by their physicians. That’s a clear example that the six month diagnosis is no safeguard at all.” – Dr. Francisco Hoyos, Providence Healthcare

On the lack of mental health screening requirements:

“Proponents may argue that doctors are all generalists and are trained to make mental assessments of their patients on a regular basis. However, think about who treats terminally ill patients and who would qualify as an “attending physician” under the bill.”  — Dr. Hoyos

On how healthcare disparity impacts assisted suicide:

“In so many ways, people coming from poor families and families of color are taken advantage of by a society that seems too often to be comfortable with leaving the least, lost, and forgotten out of its processes…I hope we’re reviewing the [Centers for Disease Control findings] where there are disparities within our communities.  It is commonly agreed upon that socioeconomics play a large role in determining health.” – Pastor Nathanial Thomas, Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church, Legislative Committee Chair of Collective Empowerment Group

On medical ethics:

“Enactment of this bill would take Maryland across an ethical bright red line which has existed in medicine for thousands of years. The prohibition against participation in medical suicide and euthanasia rests at the foundation of the Hippocratic Oath and has been reaffirmed by the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and American Nursing Association among many others.” – Dr. Joseph Marine, Johns Hopkins Medical Center

These arguments and more all came together to push back against the coordinated national effort to pass assisted suicide in Maryland.  We need to recognize this incredible achievement, but we must also remember all of these points, when this legislation is sure to be revisited.

We hope that you will stand with us again.

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