Compassion & Choices today brought 165 of its Maryland supporters to meet with their state legislators in Annapolis to urge them to pass the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End of Life Options Act.” The legislation would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable so they can die peacefully in their sleep.
“I love life. I love being a parent to my 17-year-old son and working toward becoming a minister, a journey I started several years ago,” said Rockville resident Alexa Fraser, who was diagnosed in December with a rare and aggressive type of Gynecological cancer. “I just want the ability to choose a peaceful death with my family around me rather than one filled with pain, or drowning in my bodily fluids, or with my abdomen bursting as happened to a good friend with abdominal cancer.”
First introduced in 2015, the bipartisan bill was reintroduced late Tuesday in the Senate (SB0354) by Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Dist. 13 (Howard County) with 13 cosponsors and House of Delegates (HB0370) by Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Dist. 13 (Howard County) with 42 cosponsors, including Del. Terri Hill, D-Dist. 12 (Baltimore County & Howard County).
“Our momentum is building. Our Maryland action teams have doubled; our supporters have increased by over 30 percent, and we have more bill co-sponsors than last year,” said Kensington resident Kim Callinan, Chief Program Officer for Compassion & Choices. “We expect our legislators to listen to the voices of the people who voted them into office and pass this legislation this year.”
A Feb. 2016 poll by the bipartisan firm Purple Strategies shows 65 percent of Maryland voters support medical aid-in-dying legislation, with majority support across key communities, including Catholics, African Americans and Republicans.
“The End of Life Options Act gives a dying person relief and peace of mind at a terrifying time when they are facing unbearable suffering,” said Sen. Guzzone. “It is time we bring this policy to Maryland residents so that they are offered the control and autonomy that we deserve — and the peace of mind that goes along with it — as they approach this inevitable transition that we each will face.”
“It’s time for Marylanders to have this additional end-of-life care option, along with the other six states that now authorize it,” said Del. Pendergrass.
Medical aid in dying is authorized in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, and Colorado with a combined 30+ years of experience with this proven and effective medical practice. In addition, Congress is reviewing medical aid-in-dying legislation passed by the D.C. Council in November and signed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in December.
In September, the Maryland State Medical Society adopted a neutral position on medical aid in dying after it surveyed its members and found six out of 10 physicians (60%) supported changing the society’s position on medical aid-in-dying legislation from opposing it to supporting it (47%) or adopting a neutral stance (13%).
According to Del. Hill, who is a physician, “This bill supports an important tenet of patient centered care – respect for an individual’s patient’s values, priorities and autonomy throughout their life, including the very end.”
The legislation also is endorsed by the ACLU, Maryland Libertarian Party, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, and United Seniors of Maryland, whose member organizations include 2.5 million seniors.
“I believe that quality of life is important to God,” said Rev. Alexander F. Vishio, an assistant minister for Social Justice & Witness for the Central Atlantic Conference-United Church of Christ, in Catonsville, Md. “When that quality declines irreversibly, terminally ill people may morally choose to end that life by means that are, in their own way, an affirmation of divinely endowed human intelligence and dignity.”