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Mizeur would legalize physician-assisted suicide

Del. Heather R. Mizeur promised to push for a law allowing physician-assisted suicide in Maryland if elected governor.

"If terminally ill, mentally competent adults choose to end their life, they should be able to seek a life-ending dose of medicine from their physician," Mizeur said in a policy proposal released late Tuesday.

Three states — Oregon, Washington, and Vermont — have similar policies, dubbed by advocates "Death with Dignity" laws.

Mizeur, a Democrat from Montgomery County, outlined her call for legalization of doctor-assisted suicide along with ideas to help seniors as they retire, age, get sick and approach death.

On Tuesday, Mizeur also proposed creating state-backed retirement savings accounts for workers whose employers do not provide them. She described the country as "in the midst of a retirement savings crisis."

Under her plan, Maryland employers with at least five workers would be required to help their employees participate in a retirement savings plan if they do not offer another retirement option. California enacted a similar program in 2012.

The program would be similar to a 401(k) plan offered by many private employers, but it would be administered by the state and cost about $360,000 a year to set up, according to legislative analysts who reviewed similar proposals. Employers would not be required to offer matching contributions, only to ensure that employees had access to the savings account.

Lawmakers have pushed similar proposals for a statewide retirement savings program as far back as 2007. This year, measures died in both chambers of the General Assembly without a committee vote.

In her plan for seniors, Mizeur also proposed that the state place greater emphasis on Alzheimer's research, vowing to work to implement recommendations by the state's council on Alzheimer's — the Virginia L. Jones Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Council — and to push legislation in Annapolis when necessary.

"We have the resources to make our state an epicenter for Alzheimer's research if we make it a priority," she said.

Mizeur also called for a $1.1 million plan that would place specially trained geriatric mental health workers in every county, as well as a special registry to track and report elder abuse by caregivers.

Mizeur also proposed creating financial incentives for seniors to set up living wills, power of attorney and advance directives that can help direct medical care in later years.

The two-term delegate has run an unconventional bid for the Democratic nomination, relying on public financing, grass-roots organizing and pressing for liberal causes, including legalizing marijuana and using the tax revenue to pay for sweeping pre-kindergarten programs.

ecox@baltsun.com

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