Two identical bills (one in the House and one in the Senate) were introduced during the 2023 legislative session in Maryland.
Both of these bills allow
a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and take medication — should they choose — to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.
The bills are modeled after legislation in authorized jurisdictions and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been in practice for 25 years without a single instance of abuse or coercion.
Just like the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, to be eligible, a person must be:
- An adult, aged 18 or older
- Terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live
- Mentally capable of making an informed healthcare decision
- The individual must be able to self-administer the medication and must take a voluntary, affirmative act to ingest the medication themselves.
- Two healthcare providers must confirm that the person is terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less to live, mentally capable of making healthcare decisions, and not being coerced.
- A terminally ill person can withdraw their request for medication, not take the medication once they have it or otherwise change their mind at any point.
- The attending healthcare provider must inform the requesting individual about all of their end-of-life care options, including hospice care, comprehensive pain and symptom management.
- There is a mandatory mental health evaluation if either healthcare provider has concerns about the patient’s capacity to make an informed healthcare decision; the prescription cannot be written until the mental health provider confirms capacity.
- Healthcare providers who participate and comply with all aspects of the law are given civil and criminal immunity.
- Anyone attempting to coerce a patient will face criminal prosecution.
- Life insurance payments cannot be denied to the families of those who use the law.
- No healthcare provider is required to participate.
- The underlying illness — not medical aid in dying — will be listed as the cause of death on the death certificate.
- Unused medication must be disposed of according to the guidelines specified by any legal means or prescribed by rule.
Additional Regulatory Requirements
- The individual must make two oral requests for aid-in-dying medication.
- A written request is also required. Two people must witness the written request, one of whom cannot be a relative or someone who stands to benefit from the person’s estate.
- There is a 15-day waiting period between the individual’s oral and written requests. There is also a 48 hour waiting period between the written request and the second oral request.
- Prescribing healthcare providers must comply with medical-record documentation requirements and make records available to the state department of health.
- The state department of health is required to issue a publicly available annual report. Identifying information about individual patients and healthcare providers is kept confidential.
Additional Information About the Bill:
- Delegate Pena–Melnyk (HB 933)
- Senator Waldstreicher (SB 845)
For More Information:
Maryland State Director at Compassion & Choices