House panel votes to extend rights to make health decisions

March 27, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

A House committee voted 16-6 yesterday to approve a bill that would create a state registry to allow unmarried roommates to make medical decisions for one another.

Members of the Health and Government Operations Committee fought amendments to the Medical Decision Making Act of 2004 that would have widened its target beyond the two groups that want the protection because they are unable or unwilling to marry: gay couples and seniors age 62 and older.

If the bill becomes law, eligible couples would be able to register their relationship with a state health agency in order to ease post-death and medical care decision-making.

The vote, with two members abstaining - Baltimore County Republican Del. A. Wade Kach and Baltimore City Democrat Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks - was decisive, according to Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, who supported the bill.

"I think it's a very strong significant majority to address the fact that people cannot access these rights that other people take for granted," said Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat.

The version the full House will vote on defines as eligible for the registry couples in "life partnerships," rather than "domestic partnerships."

The word change won the bill unexpected support from Del. Charles R. Boutin, a Harford County Republican who authored failed legislation that would have changed the state constitution to prohibit gay marriages.

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