Death with Dignity - Policy Statements
UULM-MD works in coalition with Compassion and Choices in support of legislation that establishes guidelines for death with dignity by allowing end of life choices for the terminally ill. The Maryland legislation that was introduced in 2015 and 2016 and will be re-introduced in 2017 is based on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. The Maryland bill, like the Oregon Act will allow terminally ill state residents to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal medications.
To request a prescription for lethal medications, the bill will require that a patient must be:
- An adult (18 years of age or older)
- A resident of the state
- Competent (defined as able to make and communicate health care decisions)
- Diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months
- Able to self-administer the medication
Patients meeting these requirements will be eligible to request a prescription for lethal medication from a licensed Maryland physician. To receive a prescription for lethal medication, the following steps must be fulfilled:
- The patient must make two oral requests to his or her physician, separated by at least 15 days.
- The patient must provide a written request to his or her physician, signed in the presence of two witnesses.
- The prescribing physician and a consulting physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis.
- The prescribing physician and a consulting physician must determine whether the patient is capable.
- If either physician believes the patient's judgment is impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder, the patient must be referred for a psychological examination.
- The prescribing physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to physician aid in dying, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
- The prescribing physician must request, but may not require, the patient to notify his or her next-of-kin of the prescription request.
Last year’s bill was not voted upon by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and was withdrawn for lack of support. We hope that our efforts in 2017 will be able to finally have it approved by both houses.