By Chris Haring

Although polls show that over two-thirds of Marylanders support medical aid in dying, the End-of-Life Option Act has hit another legislative roadblock.

For the right-to-die movement in Maryland, the close of the 2024 legislative session once again brings an all-too-familiar question: why has the End-of-Life Option Act, a bill that boasts support from an overwhelming majority of Marylanders, failed to pass for ten consecutive years?

A recent Maryland Matters guest commentary from Michael J. Strauss, a retired internist and president of Marylanders for End-of-Life Options, delves into the complexities surrounding the recurring stalling of the medical aid-in-dying bill that holds such profound implications for terminally ill folks in the state.

Over the past decade (since 2015), legislators have debated – and ultimately, shelved – the End-of-Life Option Act in Maryland. However, with resounding support from 70% of the state’s residents, the question begging to be asked is, “why?”

There are both acute and broader reasons why medical aid in dying is being stymied in Maryland

Firstly, Strauss says, the immediate cause of the bill’s failure in the most recent session lay in the reversal of support by a former co-sponsor and advocate in the Senate. The sudden shift in allegiance, which he theorized might be due to some reciprocal political deal, torpedoed the bill’s progress. 

Secondly, Strauss confronts the litany of arguments presented by opponents of physician-assisted dying, debunking each one. Misinformation and fear-mongering should not dictate policy decisions, particularly when lives hang in the balance.

The most obstructive hurdle to legalizing assisted death in Maryland (and elsewhere) is religion

Lastly, beneath the surface lies the ultimate obstacle: religion. As Death with Dignity reported in January, Strauss agrees that for many opponents, religious beliefs form the bedrock of their opposition. The specter of religious dogmatism continues to cast a long shadow over the legality of end-of-life options.

Ultimately, the End-of-Life Option Act is not about imposing a singular ideology but rather about the autonomy of Marylanders with terminal illnesses to chart their own course for their final days.

Dr. Strauss concluded his op-ed by quoting the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, for whom the bill is named. In a 2019 supporting letter: Congressman Cummings said, “…at the end of life, an individual’s right to self-determination about one of the most personal decisions that anyone could make supersedes the moral sensibilities of others.”

For more information on the status of Death with Dignity in Maryland, please visit the state page on our website.