A bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Maryland failed in the Senate on Wednesday after a dramatic deadlock vote saw one state senator refuse to cast the deciding ballot.
The End-of-Life Options Act was one vote short of the 24 needed to advance out of the Senate. The vote was a tie with 23 senators in favor and 23 against. There are 47 members of the Maryland State Senate.
An earlier version of the bill, which contained fewer safeguards than the measure before the Senate, easily passed through Maryland House of Delegates earlier this month. The Senate draft contained new provisions that would have restricted who was eligible to receive lethal drugs from a doctor.
Sen. Obie Peterson, a Democrat who represents Prince George’s County, declined to vote on the bill, effectively preventing it from moving forward.
Speaking to the Baltimore Sun, Peterson said that he had spoken to many members of his church and to his constituents, who were divided over the issue.
“I researched it, I talked with folks and my decision today was not to cast a vote,” Peterson told the Baltimore Sun.
Peterson defended his abstention, saying that he “did not relinquish my responsibility to thoroughly review all of the concerns I had about the bill,” and that “at the end of the day, I felt I could not cast a vote.”
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore called the End-of-Life Options Act a “deeply flawed” piece of legislation, and celebrated its failure in a statement published on the archdiocesan website.
“Physician-assisted suicide violates God’s most sacred gift and enables individuals to decide arbitrarily when life is no longer worthwhile or no longer worth living,” said the archbishop. He thanked those who worked to defeat the legislation.
“Thank you for standing up for the sanctity of life,” said Lori.
In a statement published on their website, the Maryland Catholic Conference thanked everyone who called their representatives to lobby against the bill.
“Because of your calls, emails, and efforts, physician-assisted suicide will not be legalized in Maryland this year,” said the site.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without all of your voices and prayers. Thank you for making a difference in the fight against physician-assisted suicide!”
Although Maryland will not be legalizing assisted suicide during this legislative session, lawmakers in several other states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, are still considering similar bills. A bill in New Jersey has passed both houses of the state legislature and is awaiting the signature of the governor.
Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii, Vermont, Colorado, and Washington, DC.