Letter: Legislature Must Pass End of Life Options Act

WAMU talk show host Diane Rehm testifies last year in favor of legislation that would provide Marylanders with 'end-of-life' options. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Dear Editor:

I’ve been a resident of Prince George’s County for close to 60 years, and worked as a hospice volunteer for 20 years here. I’ve worked with terminally ill people and their families to ensure a peaceful death, but in some cases hospice is not enough to relieve their suffering.
For some terminally ill people (less than 1%), medical aid in dying is the option they would decide to use to give them peace of mind and end unbearable suffering at the end of their lives.
Medical aid in dying is part of the continuum of care provided by doctors, nurses and other health care professionals at the end of life. Over the past 21 years, 90% of people who used the medical aid-in-dying law in Oregon (the model for the Maryland End of Life Option Act) were enrolled in hospice, a form of comfort palliative care for those with six months or fewer to live. Oregon’s medical aid-in-dying law has helped spur the state to lead the nation in hospice enrollment.
In addition, in jurisdictions where medical aid in dying is authorized, research shows this option spurs conversations between doctors and patients about the full range of end-of-life care options, including hospice and palliative care, and better utilization of them.
 
I commend the delegates and senators who have sponsored, cosponsored and voted in favor of this compassionate bill, which nearly passed last year. This year, the Maryland Legislature must pass the End of Life Options Act, and Governor Hogan must sign it into law because for terminally ill people in Maryland who are suffering intolerably, there is no time to wait.
 
— ELIZABETH J. ECHOLS
The writer is a resident of Oxon Hill.