Health and Government Operations Committee Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass first introduced the End-of-Life Option Act, which would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering, in 2015. After spending the last five years studying this issue, it’s time for the Maryland legislature to pass this compassionate legislation for terminally ill state residents who don’t have the luxury of more delay, as Speaker Busch wisely recognized four years ago.
“There are many people who are dying inch by inch, who would like to have the option,” House Speaker Busch told The Washington Post in 2016. “I’ve gotten to a point in my own mind where this is an issue I personally support.”
“Patients like me want to be alert and have the ability to plan the end of life just like we worked so hard to plan our lives in a normal way, or our cancer treatments, said Carol Preston, a three-time cancer survivor who’s been fighting for her life on and off for the last 13 years. “And this bill would allow us to do that.”
Since the Maryland End of Life Option Act was introduced in 2015, five states have enacted similar legislation into law: California (2015), Colorado (via a ballot initiative 2016), Hawai‘i (2018), New Jersey and Maine (2019), as well as Maryland’s neighbor, Washington, D.C. (2017).
Four other states authorized the end-of-life option of medical aid in dying before 2015, including Oregon (via ballot initiative in 1994), Washington (via ballot initiative in 2008), Montana (via a state Supreme Court ruling in 2009), and Vermont (2013). As a result, more than one out of five adults nationwide (22%) have the end-of-life option of medical aid in dying.
- A 2019 Public Policy Poll showed Marylanders support medical aid in dying by a 3-1 margin (66% to 20%), including majority support from African Americans (59%) and every other demographic group (Independents: 73%, Democrats: 70%, Republicans: 53%, whites: 69%, Catholics: 65%, Protestants: 62%, Jews: 67% and Muslims: 52%).
- The Maryland State Medical Society adopted a neutral stance on the legislation after a 2016 survey showed the majority of its members supported it.
There is not one documented case of abuse or coercion involving medical aid in dying since Oregon passed the nation’s first law 25 years ago, which is the model for Maryland’s End-of-Life Option Act. In fact, Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) has confirmed that: “DRO has never…received a complaint that a person with disabilities was coerced or being coerced to make use of the Act.”
Compassion & Choices urges Maryland lawmakers to pass the End-of-Life Option Act in 2020.