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Maryland Seeks to Pass “End-of-Life Option” for Terminal Patients

In the United States, the public is fraught when it comes to deciding whether doctor-assisted suicide, also known as euthanasia and “death with dignity” laws, should be legal in all 50 states. As for right now, only five states, California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia permit physician-assisted suicide resulting from legislation, while Montana permits physician-assisted suicide when permitted by court ruling.

By having “death with dignity” legislation in place, it allows terminal patients, who are eligible after meeting criteria assigned by statute and approved by physicians, to request medical aid in self-administering drugs that lead to the suffering patient’s death. Maryland has recently submitted legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state, and define the parameters of what this legislation would permit on behalf of a terminal patient’s request.

The Details of the Proposed “End-of-Life Option” Act

According to the proposed legislation, known as the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life Option Act, an attending physician, who is a licensed physician that is the primary physician in charge of the medical care of the patient, may permit aid in dying to his or her patient. This patient must be able to have the capacity to understand all medical decisions which require that the patient be lucid enough and have the capacity to not only understand the consequences and the nature of the request for medical involvement but also must understand that the medical decisions have benefits, risks and that there are alternatives to the decision itself. Finally, the patient must be able to communicate that he or she is making an informed decision to take the following action and decide to accept medical intervention that will lead to his or her death.

The Terminal Patient Must Satisfy Requirements

As part of the end-of-Life Option, a mental health professional is required to make an assessment that the individual requesting medical intervention has the capacity to make this medical decision and also that he or she is not suffering from a mental disorder that would impair this requisite judgment. The primary medical physician must make a medical diagnosis that the patient is in fact suffering from a terminal illness which is defined as any medical condition where the reasonable prognosis for the individual is that he or she will die as a result of this medical condition within six months.

Procedure for Requesting Aid in Dying

The procedure for the individual to request the End-of-Life Option is that once the patient is found to have not only a terminal illness but is of sound mind to make medical decisions regarding his or her health care, the patient must first make an initial request to his or her attending physician orally, then this request must be followed by a written request to the attending physician, and then there must be a second (and final) oral request to the attending physician within at least 15 days after making the initial oral request and within 48 hours after the subsequent written request has been submitted. It is important to note that notwithstanding any other conditions and provisions of the law, only the individual may request aid in dying, not his or her agent under an advance directive, an attorney in fact, a guardian, or a conservator on behalf of the individual.

Requirements for Witnesses

Accordingly, there must be two witnesses at the signing of the written request. The two witnesses must attest to the fact that they believe that the individual is of sound mind to make this decision, but also that the individual is voluntarily requesting the aid in dying, and is not being coerced into this action. Only one of the witnesses may be a relative of the individual by blood, marriage, or adoption, or maybe a beneficiary of any inheritance resulting from the individual’s death.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Dying with dignity is just one emotionally fraught medical issue that our country is examining as a standard of care for the future. We leave our lives in the hands of our medical professionals and expect the utmost duty of care in treatment. If you or a loved one has been injured by a medical professional, it is important to consult with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.