Although I am a firm believer in the right of everyone to express their opinion, I feel that I must respond to the information given by Catherine Monsour in her February 25 letter to the editor entitled, “What’s Going On In Annapolis?” I am writing not to persuade anyone to my opinion but to provide accurate information about the Death with Dignity Act.
The fact is that Maryland HB 399 (End-of-Life Option Act) is entirely voluntary on the part of all health care providers and the patient in every phase. No physician, pharmacist, or any other provider or facility is required to participate.
Alleviation of pain is not the purpose of the bill, or of the majority of those requesting this end-of-life option. No one wants to spend their last days in pain or drugged with high doses of medication; however, the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns in Oregon (whose Death with Dignity bill has been implemented since 1998) in 2018 were: loss of autonomy (91.4%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86.7%), and loss of dignity (71.4%). These are legitimate concerns for those who requested the medication and who did not wish to spend their final time dependent on others to take care of their most basic needs. To verify the accuracy of this information, please read HB 399 and consult websites listing the statistics associated with similar bills in other states.
As for falsification of documents that could lead to inaccurate health statistics, as my father used to say, “That dog won’t hunt.” The number of people in Oregon who died using the medications obtained under the law in 2018 was 168. These individuals had a variety of diseases, but all were expected to die within 6 months. I am not a statistician but this seems hardly enough to skew the demographics of any disease fatality.
Participation in aid-in-dying is entirely voluntary for all. Anyone who does not want to take this option, they do not have to do so. All I ask is that they do not impose their beliefs and opinions on me. I hope the Maryland legislators are compassionate and smart enough to make this option available to those of us who wish it.