Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Tuesday that he is taking a “serious look” at a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medications to terminally ill patients.
“Obviously it’s the kind of issue that you don’t just want to have a knee-jerk reaction on,” Hogan said. “It’s something that requires a lot of thought and we’re spending a lot of time taking a look at it, and we’ll come out with a position on the bill.”
The proposed “Death With Dignity” measure has been the subject of intense and emotional debate in Maryland over the last week. The governor weighed in on the proposed legislation during an impromptu news conference.
His comments were a shift from his stance during the campaign, when he said he would oppose attempts to legalize aid in dying. “I believe a physician’s role is to save lives, not terminate them,” Hogan, who is Catholic, told the archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic Standard in October.
On Tuesday, the governor said he feels torn on the issue but that any position he takes will be based on the facts of the bill.
“It’s not going to have anything to do with faith,” he said. “I’ve got some issues about helping people terminate their lives, but I also understand that some people go through some very difficult times and they’re suffering. I see both sides of the issue.”
Under the bill, a patient who is certified to be mentally competent and has six months or less to live would be eligible for a prescription for lethal drugs. The drugs would have to be self-administered.
It remains unclear whether the bill, sponsored in the House by Del. Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Howard) and in the Senate by Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick), will be passed by either chamber.
On Tuesday, a Senate panel heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including O.J. Brigance, a former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease eight years ago.
Brigance opposes what is commonly known as assisted suicide.
“I have personally faced the dilemma debated by the committee this afternoon, whether to live or die with dignity, as the proponents of the bill would call it,” he testified, using a voice-generating computer that he activates by moving his eyes.
He told the panel that after his diagnosis he and his wife were almost overwhelmed at the thought of him “losing the ability to run, walk, talk and eventually to breathe on my own.”
“But once we grieved, we came to the decision that adverse circumstances in no way delete purpose or destiny in one’s life,” Brigance continued. “Have there been days where it has been challenging? Of course. However, I did not create my life, so I have no right to negate my life.”