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Local Newspapers Publish Editorials, Opeds Endorsing/Defending Maryland End of Life Option Act

By Sean Crowley, Sr. National Media Relations Dir., Compassion & Choices

Since Feb. 9, four newspapers – The Washington Post, The Maryland Independent, The Calvert Recorder, and Frederick News-Post – have endorsed Maryland’s End of Life Option Act (SB 701/HB 643). This compassionate bill would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get prescription medication they could take if their suffering becomes intolerable and die peacefully in their sleep. 

This end-of-life care option is authorized in nine states – California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington – as well as Washington, D.C. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one out of five U.S. residents (22%) and have 50 years of combined experience successfully implementing this medical practice.

Three of the four editorial endorsements – The Washington Post, The Maryland Independent and The Calvert Recorderfollowed a 4-1/2 hour hearing on Feb. 28 by Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on this medical aid-in-dying legislation. The hearing featured terminally ill Marylanders, family members whose loved ones died in agony, doctors, faith leaders, mental health professionals, and policy makers who testified about the urgent need to enact this bill. The 2019 End of Life Option Act fell one vote short of passing in the Senate, 23-23, after the House of Delegates approved it by a comfortable 74-66 vote. 

In addition, The Washington Post and The Maryland Daily Record have published opeds since the Senate hearing by Rev. Joseph Kitchen, an active member of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, and Compassion & Choices President/CEO Kim Callinan, refuting opponents’ arguments against the bill.

Below are excerpts of these four editorials and two opeds:

The Washington Post, “Editorial: Maryland must at last allow dying people to avoid unnecessary suffering,” March 8, 2020

“Sen. Obie Patterson (D-Prince George’s), who punted last year with his non-vote, has not disclosed his intentions. “I know what I’m going to do. I just don’t want to reveal it at this point. . . . I need to keep it sacred,” he told Maryland Matters reporter Bruce DePuyt last month. 

“Mr. Patterson and other members of the General Assembly should not be given a pass on this issue. There’s no question medical assistance is a fraught issue, but the merits of this bill — which polls have shown is supported by most Marylanders — deserve discussion and a decision. That is what leadership is about. We urge [Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will] Smith and [Senate President Bill] Ferguson [both bill sponsors] to make a priority of the Maryland End-of-Life Option Act, and we urge [Gov. Larry] Hogan to follow through on his pledge to examine and take a stand on the bill. They may think they can wait another year. But Marylanders such as 38-year-old Debra Cirasole, suffering from terminal brain cancer and wanting the choice to die in comfort rather than in pain, can’t.”

The Maryland Independent,Editorial: Terminally ill should be given the choice,” March 11, 2020

“Our legislators should also take a look at the testimony given during a 4½-hour hearing Feb. 28 in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

“‘The location of my [terminal brain] cancer … has already caused me great pain and trauma, and cost me my mobility,’ 38-year-old Severn resident Debra Cirasole told senators in the public hearing. ‘Under this proposal, I … will be granted … a much softer, comforting release at home surrounded by my loved ones. … Being granted this right to die with comfort is a compassion that I and others deserve.’

“It’s a comfort we should all have the right to choose for ourselves and our families, and something that people like Cirasole need right now. We urge senators and delegates to finally pass the End-of-Life Option Act.

The Calvert Recorder,Editorial: Terminally ill should be given the choice,” March 11, 2020

“The House bill could pass again this year, but the Senate bill is currently two votes short on the count. Sometime in the next 26 days or so before the end of the session, those two votes will be needed before it goes to the floor, and on to the governor’s desk. 

“We urge Senators in Southern Maryland as well as others around the state, Democrat and Republican, to sign on to this needed, compassionate legislation …

“And, we ask the governor to then sign his name to it so those facing a sure and painful death can instead seek peace and dignity.”

The Frederick News-Post, “Editorial: An option for the terminally ill,” Feb. 9, 2020

“Will this be the year that desperately ill, dying patients finally get to control their own lives, and the ability to end their suffering with dignity and in peace? We hope so … 

“…desperate, competent people should have a right to make this decision…not be forced to choose, as so many people are now, between prolonged, pointless suffering or taking their own life in an act of violence.”

The Maryland Daily Record, Facts should matter in life and death,” Oped by Kim Callinan, March 5, 2020

“Last Friday, the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee held the first legislative hearing on the 2020 Maryland End of Life Option Act. … Sadly, oppositional lawmakers dominated the hearing, intentionally directing their “questions” to non-expert witnesses so that they could perpetuate misinformation and hyperbole. To set the record straight, below are the facts about medical aid in dying. 

“Medical Aid in Dying: Protects Vulnerable Populations

Medical aid-in-dying legislation has been authorized across 9 states and DC … There hasn’t been a single proven incidence of abuse or coercion in the nearly 50 years of combined experience …

“‘Good Faith’ Immunities ARE Practiced in Maryland

It is routine in states across the nation, including Maryland, to include immunities in laws that govern end-of-life care …

“Medical Records Can be Subpoenaed Under the Law

As drafted, the End of Life Option Act is in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s requirements for how death certificates are coded …

“Death Certificate Coding Complies with CDC Best Practice

As drafted, the End of Life Option Act is in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s requirements for how death certificates are coded …”

The Washington Post, “Have faith in Maryland’s End-of-Life Option Act,” Oped by Rev. Joseph Kitchen, Feb. 25, 2020

“…most people of faith don’t oppose medical aid in dying. In fact, a majority of Catholics (65%), Protestants (62%), Jews (67%), Muslims (52%) in Maryland support it, according to a 2019 Public Policy Polling, showing 66 percent of Marylanders overall support this option. I recently joined faith leaders from Judaism, the Presbyterian Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, and United Church of Christ at a news conference to express our support for this legislation.

“I grew up as the son and step-son of Baptist ministers before becoming one myself. There is no Biblical doctrine anyone can stand on to oppose this bill … 

“Sadly in far too many of our churches, we are being given a version of a vengeful, repressive God. 

“I don’t know that God. My God is loving. My God is kind. My God is compassionate. My God is freeing. My God is liberating.”