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Reviving the death with dignity bills

Brendan Reynolds

Advocates for death with dignity bills—one in the House and one in the Senate--launched a renewed drive in Annapolis Wednesday, optimistic their bills will pass this year.

The bills, which would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients, died in the face of stiff opposition during the last two General Assembly sessions. But Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion and Choices, the group backing the bills, said polls show that a majority of Marylanders favor the bill.

"So, what we’re here this session to do is to make sure that the lawmakers and the state of Maryland respect the values and priorities of their constituents and that they vote to pass this legislation right now," she told a crowd in a House delegation room.

An emotional Alexa Fraser, a volunteer with Compassion and Choices, said her father committed suicide rather than die in a nursing home from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He tried pills and cutting his wrists and finally a gun.

"I have heard people say, 'Oh, his ultimate success proves that this bill is not needed,'" she told the crowd. "I’d like to ask them to compare the experience of holding your loved one’s hand as they drift off to the experience my husband had walking into my dad’s room and finding his body."

And now, she has been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer and her end, she said, "won’t be pretty."

She said she wants "the ability to choose a peaceful death with my family around me rather than one filled with pain or drowning in my bodily fluids or with my abdomen bursting."

Shortly afterward, Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which has opposed the efforts, issued a statement warning that the bills could endanger the elderly or people with intellectual disabilities who could be coerced into ending their lives.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.