As the Maryland General Assembly convenes for its 2024 Session, it will consider passage of The End-of-Life Option Act (The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings and the Honorable Shane E. Pendergrass Act). By passing the Act, Maryland would join 10 other states and Washington, D.C. in allowing a physician to assist those with terminal illnesses by easing the pain of dying.
Medical aid in dying gives terminally ill, mentally capable adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can decide to take in their final weeks or days to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
It is a difficult topic to discuss, and one that must be approached with compassion for people who are dealing with the final stages of illnesses that may cause them considerable suffering.
Polling shows that Americans have clarity on the issue, and the peace in passing it may allow should they experience a terminal illness that inflicts extreme suffering in their final days. 67% of voters nationwide said if they “had an incurable, terminal illness, still had a sound mind, had less than six months to live, and… met the legal requirements,” they “would want the option of medical aid in dying.” Support is even higher in Maryland, 71%, and rises to 74% when voters learn Washington D.C. and other states have the option.
Though the conversation is hard, proactively discussing this issue publicly and privately is important, because it demystifies a topic that may otherwise be considered taboo. By talking about suffering, and the opportunity to maintain decision-making autonomy in the midst of terminal illness, terminally ill adults, their doctors, and their loved ones engage in more frequent, full conversations that improve end-of-life care overall, and create better utilization of hospice and palliative care.
Simply having the option of medical aid in dying is also reported to decrease fears and feelings of powerlessness that individuals with terminal illnesses often report, enabling them to live their final days as fully as possible, and on their own terms.
Ultimately, the issue is about autonomy and the opportunity for terminally ill adults to make their own decisions about the end-of-life care options that are right for them, proactively, and in consultation with their doctors and loved ones. The legislation before the General Assembly creates a thoughtful, compassionate framework within which these difficult conversations can take place. Its passage would be an important step forward for the terminally ill, and their ability to die peacefully and avoid needless suffering in their final days.
Paid for by Compassion & Choices Action Network
 Maryland General Assembly. Available at: mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/hb0403
 Maryland Voters Support Medical Aid in Dying, Source: Gonzales Research & Media Services, January 2023. Available at: bit.ly/MD2023PollMedicalAidInDying