Maryland Bill Would Require Doctors to Promote Suicide as Option to Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Maryland Bill Would Require Doctors to Promote Suicide as Option to Patients

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 20
, 2009

Annapolis, MD ( — As a method of getting states to promote suicide without legalizing the practice of assisted suicide, euthanasia backers are relying on legislation that forces doctors to promote suicide as an option. The bills also make it so pro-euthanasia groups are given referral status to talk with patients.

California approved a bill last year that required doctors to inform terminally ill patients about options such as refusing to eat or having food and water withdrawn.

As originally written, it would have permitted patients to demand to be sedated and dehydrated to death – what pro-life advocates called a back door method of assisted suicide.

Now, legislators in Maryland are considering similar legislation.

Two Maryland Delegates are promoting House Bill 30 that says doctors who don’t want to provide the information are obligated to refer terminally ill patients to another doctor or to organizations that will do so.

If it is approved, pro-euthanasia groups will be able to sell themselves as providers of information to terminally ill patients, which means they will be able to promote suicide as an option.

Wesley J. Smith, a California based bioethicist who closely followed the legislation there, is very worried about the Maryland bill.

"In addition to pushing assisted suicide, groups like Compassion and Choices yearn for respectability and desire to be seen as legitimate care givers for patients, at least in an informational context," he explains. "That was part of the point last year when California passed AB 2747."

"So, while the original euthanasia purpose of the bill failed, assisted suicide groups took a big step forward by becoming approved conduits of information," he said.

Smith says the Maryland bill takes a similar tact and pro-euthanasia groups like Compassion and Choices "will be able to set up shop as an organization ‘specializing’ in providing information for end-of-life care and receive referrals from doctors for patient counseling."

The measure also concerns Smith because there are no minimal credentials required for the "counselors" in the legislation, nor any minimal training for qualified "counselors."

"Isn’t that odd? I mean, if this counseling is so important it must be legally required–then isn’t its value diminished by setting such a low bar for qualifying to receive physician referrals?" Smith asks.

Smith points out that another clause in the legislation makes it so the organization conducting the counseling need only be one that "specializes in terminal condition case management and consultation."

"Indeed, doesn’t this open the door to what are, in essence, advocacy groups pushing their agendas in the guise of ‘counseling,’" he said.

"Proposals such as this are not only unnecessary and very loosely worded, they certainly seem to have agendas that go far beyond ensuring that patients receive appropriate information about proper end-of-life care," Smith concludes.

Related web sites:
Maryland Legislature –
Maryland Right to Life –

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