“Time Is Now” for Maryland Legislature to Pass Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill with 60 Cosponsors

100 Bill Supporters Hold News Conference, Lobby State Legislature
January 29, 2019

Four years after the original introduction of a medical aid-in-dying bill in Maryland in 2015, Compassion & Choices and 100 of its Maryland volunteers today met with state lawmakers to tell them the time to pass the legislation is now after its reintroduction today with 60 cosponsors.

The bill, the End of Life Option Act (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 take if their suffering becomes unbearable, so they can die peacefully in their sleep.

The lead authors of the legislation are Senator William (Will) C. Smith, Jr., vice-chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Delegate Shane E. Pendergrass (District 13, Howard County), chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee. Both committees have jurisdiction over the bill.

“After four years of debate, as well as educating lawmakers and the public about this bill, it is time

Tom Quash, Compassion & Choices Chief Marketing and Program Officer, addresses supporters in Annapolis on January 29, 2019.

for the Maryland Legislature to pass it now,” said Tom Quash, Chief Marketing and Program Officer, Compassion & Choices. “Terminally ill Marylanders with six months or less are counting on their lawmakers to pass this bill this year, so they do not suffer needlessly at the end of their life.”

Other bill supporters include the ACLU, Maryland Libertarian Party, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, and United Seniors of Maryland, whose member organizations reach 2.5 million seniors.

“Seniors are not only living longer but most are dying slower with a host of complex issues that can cause unnecessary suffering at the end of life,” said Elizabeth Weglein, president of the United Seniors of Maryland. “For many, this is a time spent in great pain and this law would allow terminally ill, mentally capable patients the option of ending their needless suffering if they so choose. The United Seniors of Maryland urges the Maryland legislature to pass this law this session.”

According to 2016 Purple Strategies poll, 65 percent of Maryland voters support medical aid in dying, including a majority of African-Americans (59%), Republicans (56%), Catholics (53%), and a plurality of voters who attend religious services weekly (46%).

“As a Catholic, I have thought long and hard about medical aid in dying, and I support terminally ill patients who want additional options at the end of life to peacefully end unnecessary suffering,” said College Park City Councilmember Denise Mitchell, who is sponsoring resolution in support of bill for consideration by College Park City Council. “The Catholic church currently supports palliative sedation and voluntary stopping of eating and drinking. Medical aid in dying is just another healthcare option at the end of life and it is time to pass this law.”

Neighboring Washington, D.C. and seven states have authorized medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, and Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

“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 beliefs,” said Rev. Dr. Paul Smith, a Presbyterian minister, civil rights activist and member of Compassion & Choices African American Leadership Council from Montgomery Village. “As someone who has spent his ministry with many African Americans who are facing death, like tennis star Arthur Ashe, I would ask our lawmakers to give prayerful consideration and support to this bill.”

According to a 2016 Maryland State Medical Society survey, 65 percent of its members supported changing the organization’s position to supporting the state’s medical aid in dying legislation (50.2%) or adopting a neutral stance on it (14.6%). The society subsequently adopted a neutral stance on the bill.

“What is fundamentally at stake here is the freedom and self-respect of the individual,” said Rev. Alex Vishio, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, whose main office is based in Catonsville. “Considerations of the kind of life we are called to lead are paramount to our moral deliberations and should inform matters of public policy.”

Compassion & Choices
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