New Gonzalez Research Poll Shows Strong Support for Medical in Dying

Marylander with Metastatic Breast, End-of-Life Care Advocacy Group Join Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Author to Urge Bill’s Passage

A strong majority of Maryland voters support medical aid-in-dying legislation, according to a new poll conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services and sponsored by the end-of-life care advocacy group Compassion & Choices.

Compassion & Choices released the poll during a Zoom rally on Thursday at 9 a.m. featuring a Baltimore woman with metastatic breast cancer, Diane Kraus, urging Maryland lawmakers to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation, the Maryland Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End of Life Option Act.

Washington, D.C. and 10 states give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end unbearable suffering, including nearby New Jersey, but Maryland currently does not.

“This is not about dying. This is about living,” said  Kim Callinan, Kensington resident, CEO of Compassion & Choices and Compassion & Choices Action Network. “I got off the phone with a woman who had contacted us, lived in Washington, D.C. Her dad was terminally ill, he desperately wanted this option. And what she said to me was, ‘The moment he got this prescription, he began to live again.’ … Now, we need to bring this law here in Maryland.”

“We have a lot of people, both in the General Assembly and people like you who are out there helping to make this a reality for people,” said  Delegate Shane E. Pendergrass (13 District/Howard County), author of Maryland Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End of Life Option Act and chair of Health and Government Operations Committee. “And it’s so important. And I do know that we in the state need it.”

“I am dying,” said Diane Kraus, who has been an occupational therapist for 35 years, mainly in-home care and hospice. “In May…I found out I had metastatic breast cancer in soft tissue, lymph nodes throughout my chest, innumerable tumors in my liver and lungs, bone cancer including my skull, and brain tumors. I have already done chemotherapy and whole-brain radiation, and continue with maintenance chemotherapy…Allow me and others like me to choose to slightly lessen the end burden…”

The Gonzales Research & Media Services telephone poll of 807 registered voters in Maryland from Dec. 20-30, 2021 showed:

  1. 57% say they personally “would want the option of medical aid in dying” if they “had an incurable, terminal illness, still had a sound mind, had less than six months to live and met the legal requirements.”
  2. 69% say they support the option of medical aid in dying for Marylanders. This overwhelming support is comparable to the pre-COVID-19 support level of 66% for medical aid in dying that a Gonzales Research & Media Services poll conducted Dec. 23, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020.
  3. 73% said Marylanders should have this option after learning that Washington, D.C. and 10 states have it. There was 66% or higher support for Maryland having this option in every demographic measured in the survey, including party affiliation, race, and region:
  • Democratic voters: 77%
  • Republican voters: 70%
  • Unaffiliated voters: 66%
  • African American voters: 68%
  • White voters: 76%
  • Baltimore City voters: 70%
  • Baltimore suburban voters: 72%
  • Eastern Shore voters: 73%
  • Western Maryland voters: 73%
  • Washington suburban voters: 75%

“What the polling shows is that Marylanders are united in support of this option…it’s important to them,” said End of Life Options Act bill sponsor Jeff Waldstreicher (18th District/Montgomery County), vice-chair of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings and Regulations Committee. “And that’s why it’s so critical to move this bill this year…It’s an issue of Liberty. It’s an issue of compassion. It’s an issue of caring. It’s an issue of empathy. It’s an issue of bodily autonomy. And most of all, it’s an issue of justice.”

In addition, the Maryland State Medical Society adopted a neutral stance on the bill after a 2016 survey showed a majority of its members supported it.

Despite the wide availability of hospice, palliative care and pain management, national studies show that between 65 and 85 percent of patients with cancer (the most common disease among people who request medical aid-in-dying) experience breakthrough pain that is not controlled by regular doses of pain medicines and can happen many times a day.

“We do endorse it because it’s good legislation,” said Elizabeth Weglein, a nursing care specialist and president, United Seniors of Maryland. “It provides access to an end-of-life care option that many of our members want and have thought about. Most importantly, it facilitates open and transparent dialogue between the patient and the doctor, which is not happening today…Maryland should have the right that residents of Washington DC and 10 other states enjoy.”

Besides United Seniors of Maryland, several other statewide organizations have expressed their support for the Maryland End of Life Option Act, including the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of MarylandWomen Indivisible Strong Effective (WISE), and Young Democrats of Maryland. In addition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland has issued a statement on its position on medical aid in dying and Maryland Public Health Association has issued a resolution in support of medical aid in dying.

About Compassion & Choices/Compassion & Choices Action Network:

Compassion & Choices is comprised of two organizations that improve care and expand options at life’s end: Compassion & Choices (501(c)(3)) educates, empowers, defends, and advocates; the Compassion & Choices Action Network (501(c)(4)) focuses exclusively on legislation, ballot campaigns, and limited electoral work.

Paid for by Compassion & Choices Action Network.