Maryland Medical Aid-in-Dying Advocates Optimistic Legislature Will Pass End of Life Option Act
Bill Reintroduced with 70 Co-sponsors, New Poll Shows 66% of Marylanders Support Legislation
Compassion & Choices Maryland and 150 of its volunteers urged state lawmakers to honor the deaths last year of three advocates for the End of Life Option Act, Maryland Speaker Michael Bush, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and Chevy Chase cancer patient Marcy Rubin, by passing the bill this session.
The bill, also known as the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Act, would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable and die peacefully in their sleep.
Last March, the Maryland Senate fell just one vote short of passing a heavily amended version of the bill approved by the House of Delegates. The prospects for enacting the bill into law are better in 2020 because of new Senate leadership and Governor Larry Hogan’s statement at the Annapolis Summit on Jan. 8 that he’s “willing to look at both sides of that issue.”
“Since last year, three of our champions have died: Congressman Elijah Cummings, House Speaker Michael Bush and Marcy Rubin, a terminally ill 63-year-old Marylander who pleaded with the Legislature to pass medical aid in dying, but she died suffering because the legislature failed to act,” said Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices and a longtime Maryland resident. “As Marcy’s story illustrates, the time to act is now. Dying Marylanders don’t have the luxury to wait another year for the legislature to pass this compassionate option.”
The 2020 bill is sponsored by Shane Pendergrass, chair of the House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee, and Jeff Waldsteicher, vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings and Regulations Committee. They have 68 cosponsors. Since Delegate Pendergrass first introduced the End of Life Option Act in 2015, five states have passed medical aid-in-dying laws: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, and New Jersey, as well as neighboring Washington, D.C.
“To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King: ‘The fierce urgency of now’ is to pass the End of Life Option Act,” said Rev. Dr. Paul Smith, a longtime civil rights leader and Presbyterian minister, who lives in Prince George’s County. “We believe God is a God of love and compassion, who would not abandon a dying person who is suffering and refuse that person the means to die peacefully in whatever way is consistent with their own individual faith and belief. Our Marylander lawmakers should not abandon their dying constituents and refuse them this option to avoid needless suffering and die peacefully.”
The news conference also included the release of a new poll conducted by Gonzales Research and Media Services showing 66 percent of Maryland voters support the End of Life Option Act, including majorities in all regions of the state, across the political spectrum, and among all age, ethnic and gender groups. The poll was conducted from Dec. 23, 2019 to Jan. 4, 2020, and paid for by Death with Dignity National Center. A total of 838 registered voters in Maryland, who indicated that they are likely to vote in the 2020 general election, were queried by live telephone interviews, utilizing both landline (39%) and cell phone (61%) numbers.
A total of nine states have authorized medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via state Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent one out of five U.S. residents (22%) and have decades of combined experience successfully implementing this medical practice.