New MD Poll Shows Pro-Choice & Pro-Life Voters Support Medical in Dying, Record Support Statewide

February 8, 2023

Graphic-only image with Compassion & Choices' logo and Compassion & Choices Action Network logo

Terminally Ill Maryland Woman, Advocates Join Bill Senate Sponsor, House Cosponsor to Urge Bill’s Passage

A record high percentage of Maryland voters (71%), including a majority of self-described pro-choice voters (82%) and a plurality of self-described pro-life voters (49% vs. 44%), support medical aid in dying, according to a new poll by Gonzales Research & Media Services. Previous Gonzales polls on the issue showed support levels of 69 percent in 2021 and 66 percent in 2020.

The poll, released Wednesday at a news conference to promote the introduction of the End–of–Life Option Act (The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings and the Honorable Shane E. Pendergrass Act), shows strong support for medical aid in dying across the religious, racial, political, and regional spectrums (see details below). The bill is named after the recently retired Maryland Delegate Shane Pendergrass because she championed the bill from 2015-2022 and Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, the first African American to be named Speaker Pro Tem in the Maryland House of Delegates, since he endorsed the bill in 2019, just months before his death from cancer. He said: “As a just and compassionate society, we cannot value life in the abstract and deny to those who are about to die the self-determination that they deserve…I commend and support those who would enact this reform in our laws.”

Brandi Alexander, Terry Lierman, Del. Terri Hill, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, and Diane Kraus speaking at Annapolis news conference in support of Maryland End-of-Life Option Act.

Brandi Alexander, Terry Lierman, Del. Terri Hill, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, and Diane Kraus speaking at Annapolis news conference in support of Maryland End-of-Life Option Act.

The new Gonzales Research & Media Services poll of 823 registered Maryland voters was conducted via live telephone interviews on Jan. 9-14 and sponsored by Compassion & Choices Action Network, which hosted the news conference. The news conference featured a terminally ill advocate from Baltimore for the bill, the widower of a Baltimore woman who died with needless suffering because she didn’t have the option of medical aid in dying, as well as the Senate sponsor and a House cosponsor of the End–of–Life Option Act who serve on the committees with jurisdiction over the bill.

“What the polling shows is that Marylanders are united in support of this option; it’s important to them,” said End-of-Life Option Act Senate sponsor, Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18th District/ Montgomery County), Vice-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings and Regulations Committee. “And that’s why it’s so critical that we pass 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. Now is the time.”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore endorsed medical aid in dying during the Jan. 11 Annapolis Summit on key issues in 2023: “…[W]e as a state have to make sure that we are protecting that ability for people to be able to make those clear mind, clear-hearted, independent decisions about the suffering that they are enduring and the suffering that their family members who are also watching them to go through, as well.”

“As a physician, I understand the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering and respect the autonomy of competent individuals to weigh their unique circumstances in reaching decisions about their options,” said House of Delegates bill co-sponsor Delegate Terri Hill, M.D. (D-District 12, Baltimore and Howard Counties), a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. “Having been part of the discussion and seen the legislation evolve, I believe it adequately addresses questions of protections of all patients, and particularly vulnerable patients, from coercion, misinformation, and other forms of exploitation and abuse, I am comfortable with the balance struck in this compassionate legislation. The majority of the public, even those who do not want it for themselves, support allowing individuals to have the option to make end-of-life decisions when facing terminal illness. That includes 70 percent of African Americans.  Most of my constituents support it, and so do I.”

“I am nauseous, constipated, have severe daily headaches, and bone pain in my back. But I continue to fight, for myself, and to spend as much time as I can with my 29-year-old son,” said Baltimore resident Diane Kraus, who has innumerable tumors in her lungs, liver, lymph nodes, bones, skull, brain, and cerebellum. She has been an occupational therapist for 36 years, mainly in-home care and hospice. “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. … [A]llow me to have the option to have a death that is gentle and peaceful.  Now is the time to pass this medical aid-in-dying legislation.”

“I spent the majority of our marriage watching my wife Caroline suffer in pain and begging me to let her die,” said Baltimore resident Terry Lierman, former Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, and former Chief of Staff to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, whose wife Caroline suffered for six months with needless suffering from terminal liver, lung, bone, spine, and colon cancer because she didn’t have the option of medical aid in dying when she passed in 2019. “We spent the last three months of her life in the hospital and hospice. I promised her before she died that I would do what I could to make sure no one else suffered at the end of life like she did. I want to thank all the legislators who voted to pass this bill in the past and encourage others to do the right thing and support this bill. The time is now to pass this bill!”

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.

“Given that support for medical aid in dying is so strong, public opposition is so weak, and terminally ill Marylanders cannot afford legislative delay or they will die with needless suffering, the time is now for Maryland lawmakers to finally pass this compassionate legislation,” said Brandi Alexander, chief engagement officer of Compassion & Choices and Compassion & Choices Action Network. “Sadly, it already is too late for numerous terminally ill supporters of this bill.Most recently, they include Takoma Park bill supporter Dr. David Meyers, who died just last month from terminal brain cancer, and Baltimore bill supporter Ronald Dickey, who died from metastatic prostate cancer in November. After eight years of debate on this bill, there is no good reason for more legislative delay.”

The 2023 Gonzales Research & Media Services poll showed:

  1. 61% of Marylanders (compared to 57% in 2021) said 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. 71% of Marylanders (compared to 69% in 2021) said they support the option of medical aid in dying, regardless of faith, race, party affiliation or region:
    • Pro-Choice: 82%
    • Pro-Life: 49% (vs. 44% opposed)
    • Catholics: 58%
    • Protestants: 72%
    • White voters: 73%
    • African American voters: 70%
    • Voters of other races: 63%
    • Democrats: 75%
    • Republicans: 66%
    • Independents: 67%
    • Eastern Shore: 78%
    • Western Maryland: 79%
    • Baltimore City: 65%
    • Baltimore Suburbs: 71%
    • Washington Suburbs: 71%
    • Prince George’s County: 68%
    • Montgomery County: 74%
    • Charles County: 73%
    • Frederick County: 68%
  3. 74% of Marylanders (compared to 73% in 2021) said they should have this option after learning that Washington, D.C. and 10 states have it.

A graphic summary of the poll results is posted at: https://compassionandchoices.org/docs/default-source/maryland/cc_mdpolling_onesheet_8.5x11_2023_02.pdf

The poll results statewide and by region are posted at: https://compassionandchoices.org/docs/default-source/maryland/compassion-and-choices—gonzales-maryland-poll-january-2023.pdf

The poll results for the Washington, D.C. suburbs are posted at: https://compassionandchoices.org/docs/default-source/maryland/washington-suburbs-results.pdf

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

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.

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