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Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller expects medically assisted suicide to pass his chamber narrowly

Associated Press

Maryland's Senate president said Tuesday that he thinks his chamber will pass a measure to allow the terminally ill to end their lives with a doctor's help in "a very, very close vote."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told reporters he believes there will be "a lot of amendments" offered to a bill now before a Senate committee. Then, he said, he thinks there will be a majority of 24 votes needed in the Senate, "but there won't be many more than that."

"I think it's going to be a close vote," Miller, a Democrat, said, adding that he believes he will "probably" vote against it, but he believes "it's going to pass."

Miller said there are concerns about sick people who are poor and decide to end their lives because they can't afford the medical care they need.

"We've got to make sure that that is not the case — that it's a very informed decision, and I anticipate a very, very close vote on the floor of the Senate," Miller said.

Miller, an attorney who has been Maryland's Senate president for 33 straight years, noted his battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer, while discussing the measure with reporters.

"Lawyer Mike Miller thought differently, and now that I have what I have, I'm thinking differently as well, you know? So it's very challenging for all of us," Miller said. "It's a very personal decision to each and every one of us."

Earlier this month, the House of Delegates passed a bill in that chamber on a 74-66 vote. Supporters contended people should not be forced to live in pain against their will when they are near death. Opponents expressed concerns that vulnerable people, particularly older patients, would be susceptible to pressure from others to end their lives.

The measure would allow adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor finds they have six months or less to live. The physician must certify that the person has the capacity to make the decision, and the prescription can only be self-administered. Supporters say they have included safeguards in the legislation. For example, a patient would have to make three requests, including one in private with a physician.

Gov. Larry Hogan has said it's an issue that "I really wrestle with from a personal basis." Hogan, a Republican, told reporters last month that he would take a close look at the measure, if lawmakers send the bill to his desk.

Laws allowing medical aid in dying are legal in seven states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia.

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