In 2008, Geraldine Lloyd, a Frederick artist, writer and activist, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease that attacks her body’s bone marrow. In 1993, she was told by doctors that she had stage three throat cancer caused by years of smoking, and again in 2004, cancerous cells were found inside her lungs.

For the last 23 years, Lloyd said her day-to-day life has been a mix of ongoing tests, chemotherapy, surgeries and doctors visits. She’s had 16 surgeries in that time, she said. Her larynx was removed after her throat cancer diagnosis, and she now speaks with an electrolarynx, which she holds beneath her chin. Her first two diseases are in remission.

Lloyd is among a growing number of local residents who are supporting death-with-dignity legislation that has already been passed in three states and is set to make a repeat appearance in the Maryland General Assembly early this year.

Frederick County Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, will join other lawmakers in a renewed effort to pass it during this year’s legislative session. The bill is expected to be introduced on Jan. 26.

A similar proposal last year garnered 47 total co-sponsors — more than any other similar bill in the country since the nonprofit national group Compassion and Choices took up a nationwide effort to expand end-of-life choices in 2015, according to the organization.

Lloyd told her story to a group of residents on Sunday at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick. She spoke on behalf of Compassion and Choices, which is again advocating for the legislation.

“I don’t want my life to end under a series of constant tests,” she said. “I want a better way, a way to come to death on my own terms.”

The new bill is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was implemented in 1998. It would allow a terminally ill adult who is mentally competent to request and obtain a prescription that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful and humane death should the person’s suffering become unbearable. The patient must be diagnosed with no more than six months to live.

Opposition to the bill last year centered around religious beliefs, fear that people could end their lives based on a false diagnosis or depression, and fear that the bill could lead to terminally ill Marylanders being pressured by others to end their lives.

Maryland was one of 25 states, along with the District of Columbia, that considered death-with-dignity legislation in 2015, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Samantha Crane is director of public policy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a board member of Not Dead Yet, a nonprofit that opposes assisted suicide. The network advocates for people with muscular disabilities such as multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. Crane testified against the Death with Dignity bill when it was being discussed in the House of Delegates last year.

Crane said that there have been countless cases in which patients have been given a six-month terminal prognosis from their doctors but have lived far past what was expected. Studies have shown that patients in states with assisted suicide laws have also been shown to suffer from depression. They often internalize negative feelings about their disabilities, she said.

A recent study by the Oregon Public Health Division showed that more patients who underwent assisted suicide cited their loss of autonomy and the burden on their family and friends as larger reasons for their decision than their physical pain.

A total of 1,327 people have had Death with Dignity Act prescriptions written, and 859 patients have died from ingesting medications prescribed under the DWDA since it passed in 1998, according to the study.

“Being a burden is something worse than death to them,” she said. “And it’s very, very easy to feel like a burden.”

Kaili Van Waveren, lead coordinator for Compassion and Choices in Frederick County, said that the new bill has several steps in place to make sure that a patient is of sound mind before receiving a prescription.

Each patient is required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, she said. At least two doctors must determine that a patient has less than six months to live, and the person must be physically able to mix the medicine and drink it himself or herself, she said. In the United States, the average person has about a 1 in 5 chance of getting a terminal disease, she said. An even larger number will know someone who will have a terminal disease.

“All of us are going to have a terminal disease or know someone who will,” she said. “This is what I would want for myself if I was terminally ill.”

Sen. Ron Young told the audience that the new bill is still being drafted and that he’s working to collect votes. Republican opposition to the bill is almost unanimous, he said, and it will be difficult to collect enough votes to override a veto from Gov. Larry Hogan. Hogan, who is Catholic, has not supported the bill in the past.

Lloyd said she believes that those suffering with a terminal disease should be given the power to choose for themselves. They, after all, are the people suffering, she said.

“I wouldn’t wish what I go through every day on anyone,” she said. “I don’t mean that as self-pity, but there is a power and dignity in giving people a choice.”

(42) comments

DickD

The Hippocratic Oath is still taken by most doctors, although not legally binding. However, most doctors abide by doing no harm, which could mean no assistance in helping a suicidal person. Any doctor that does participate would get much bad press and likely lose patients

public-redux

So now your concern is with the financial well-being of doctors? Man, you are grasping at straws.

Why don't you just admit that you want the law to force everyone to do what you think they should do?

DickD

You are just obnoxious.

public-redux

How so?

DickD

Because you seem to always be able to take my remarks out of context.

public-redux

Out of context?!?! Own your comments, man.

ddegrangejr

My original comment was just implying that if I have a grudge against someone... and they just let me take this drug with me and walk around with it... could I just slip it in another's drink? Maybe just a little better monitoring of how and when its used

public-redux

In order to get this drug, two physicians would have to certify -- to the best of their professional judgment -- that you are terminally ill. Your remaining natural lifespan is estimated to be 6 months or less. If you have a grudge against someone and want to kill them and have been told that you have 6 months or less to live, you just might kill them anyway even if you didn't have this drug. Maybe you would buy a guy and shoot them. Maybe you would try to run them down with your car. I think you have a hard case to make that you (not meaning you specifically, of course) would kill someone with this drug but wouldn't kill them without the drug.

DickD

Exactly, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), be careful what you ask for, it may not be what you want. Kind of like the Billy Shreve law that allows hunting in the southern part of the County, with a rifle.

public-redux

For the buyer to beware, the buyer must first have an opportunity to buy.

Why do you oppose this method of suicide but not other methods?

DickD

Did I say anything about methods?

public-redux

Yes, you did. Repeatedly.

sue1955

Public, I wasn't meaning that one would insert an i.v. oneself. Kinda hard to do that yourself. I was talking about a hospital/nursing home/hospice setting with a trusted physician overseeing everything.

One thing that needs to happen is good pain relief for those who are in intractable pain. I did a lot of research on dying in the months leading up to my mother's death. It is documented that many doctors across the United States are not knowledgable nor do they necessarily care about satisfactory pain relief. Hospice is not the complete answer, either, as I found out personally in my mother's case. A doctor has to be the one who prescribes the pharmaceutical(s). This physician is not necessarily the patient's own doctor, which I did know. In addition, the dying patient in an institutional setting is not necessarily being watched to see if they need attention. I'm speaking from personal experience with my late mother. Believe me, you have to be an advocate for your loved one and educate yourself.

public-redux

I didn't think you suggested that people should self-administer an IV but it did seem that you thought people should expect someone else to administer the medication. The idea, I believe, is to provide people with more ways to take their own life than they currently have available.

DickD

This web site outlines taking drugs to commit suicide and tells you that thinking drugs are painless is wrong. Read and head.

http://lostallhope.com/suicide-methods/drug-poisoning

public-redux

So you object to a drug that could be less painful?

DickD

Can you name one? I have known several that have committed suicide, all by guns. Guns can be very messy and there is no guarantee of death. One individual just ended in a wheel chair for the last 25 years. Did he really want to commit suicide, he is much worse off now, still he wants to live. You really have to wonder why some people would do this knowing they could change their mind given more time to think about it. Suicide is not a panacea.

public-redux

Dick, you remind me of the people who think abortion should be illegal. And since they can't actually outlaw it, they throw up as many obstacles as they can to prevent someone from exercising her legal right to an abortion.

You might want to ask yourself why your wishes about someone's life -- someone you don't even know -- should trump his or her wishes about their life.

DickD

Not really, public, anyone can and will commit suicide if they want to. My problem is the coercion possibility and the idea that anyone older needs to commit suicide. I just do not agree with that. If I knew someone was planning to commit suicide, I would do my best to talk them out of it, not into it like you.

public-redux

Since you agree that people can and will commit suicide, why are you so hot and bothered about this one particular method?

"the idea that anyone older needs to commit suicide" Huh? Who's idea is that? I haven't seen anyone advocating that idea. Please give me a citation.

"not into [suicide] like you" Sigh. You keep missing the point. By a lot. I'm into individual liberty. I'm opposed to government or individuals trying to get anyone else to commit suicide. And I'm opposed to government or individuals trying to tell anyone that they aren't allowed to commit suicide.

DickD

It is not about someone else, the law would apply to everyone and anyone could be mechanized and the murderer get off "scot free".

DickD

public, you keep saying you want government to stay out of your life. Does that mean you do not believe in laws that protect you? I feel that is a foolish statement.

public-redux

Dick, I don't want government to pass laws that it thinks are intended to protect me from myself. Protect me from others? Sure.

Outlawing physician assisted suicide is an attempt to protect me from myself.

DickD

Could be, does that mean you don't know and are just stating opinion.

public-redux

If this is directed to me, I don't know what it is about.

Hey, have you found any citations for your claim that older people should commit suicide?

sevenstones1000

I hope they expand this for those newly diagnosed with altzheimers/ dementia. I want to be able to make the decision to go quietly and with dignity, while I still have enough capacity to make that decision. Dementia has destroyed my mother for the past five years. She could live another ten. It has robbed her of everything. She would never ever have wanted to live like this. I made a promise to myself that I will not go down that road. I hope I will have help.

bizness

[thumbup]

DickD

If this is done totally under a doctor's care and not pushed by family members trying to get rid of an elderly parent, it may be okay, but there needs to be plenty of safe guards and I am not for it. It is not a religious issue with me, it is how I personally feel. There are more important items of legislation Mr. Young could be spending his time on. Him and his wife are wasting a lot of time and tax payer money on trivial pursuits.

b1sellers

Some of us do not feel this is a trivial matter and would like for them to work on getting it passed.

DickD

It is trivial, anyone can commit suicide, no legislation is needed, except for doctors that are willing to destroy their oath and commitment to save lives.

bizness

This is not trivial and there is almost nothing more important to pursue.

sue1955

I was surprised to read here that this is something that one drinks and not something put through an i.v. In other words, this act would have to be accomplished while the person is lucid. People at the end of their lives are not necessarily awake for the last weeks or months before actually passing away. As such, they are not able to drink (or eat). I'm not against the legislation. I'm just surprised at that condition.

public-redux

The idea is that they are acting on their own rather than having something done to them by someone else.

Dwasserba

You can be forced to drink something.

public-redux

True, but that is much harder than giving yourself an IV. The whole point is to make it possible for person who wishes to commit suicide to be able to do so.

DickD

Yes, that would be murder and this bill could be a cover for that.

public-redux

But Dick, anyone who wants to commit murder already has lots of ways to do that. (That's your argument about suicide so I figure you'll want to be consistent.). No one needs this law to commit murder.

What this bill would do for sure --not just maybe -- is enable some people who want to take their own lives another way to do so. No one seems to disagree that that is an intended consequence.

DickD

public, there are many ways to commit murder, but passing this legislation will make it difficult to tell if it was murder or suicide and that should not be the case.

ddegrangejr

So... I wonder what the other stipulations with this are? Do you have to drink it in a hospital, under a doctors watch or can I just get this and take it home and use it as I want?

public-redux

Once you have gone through the multi-step process to obtain the drug, you are free to take it -- or not, as you decide -- at home or elsewhere, however you wish.

The general idea here is that you, the individual, are better suited to make this decision than the government. Death with dignity laws are about increasing individual freedom and decreasing government's power over people.

DickD

Suicide is always possible, this new bill would just be there to protect doctors, if they provide a prescription. You do not need legislation to commit suicide.

public-redux

Exactly right. This bill is to protect physicians. And that gives people more choices (and less government) than they have now. So far as I can tell, you support allowing people to choose suicide. I'm less clear on why you care so much about restricting the methods available to them.

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