Statement of Support: End-of-Life Option Act
Before the Maryland General Assembly (HB 399/SB 311)
February 12, 2019
The Libertarian Party of Maryland supports passage of the End-of-Life Option Act, currently before the Maryland General Assembly as House Bill 399 and Senate Bill 311. The Libertarian Party has supported previous versions of this legislation in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Now is the time for the Maryland General Assembly to act to finally pass this important legislation.
The End-of-Life Option Act allows a terminally ill (those with a prognosis of six months or less to live) adult resident of Maryland, the freedom to choose to voluntarily take a medically prescribed medicine to aid in their process of dying. The bill does not allow euthanasia, which would remain illegal. The bill contains significant procedural protections to ensure the individual is competent, is not subject to undue influence or coercion, and is making a fully informed decision. We urge our supporters to take action to support this legislation.
Competent individuals should have the power to control their own bodies and lives, including the medical care they undertake in support of both. For terminally ill patients with a prognosis of less than six months to live, this right of self-determination includes the choice to take medicines to end their life in a dignified manner and thus determine for themselves how best to manage the process of dying that has already begun. Opponents mischaracterize such a choice as suicide rather than a medical response to an existing terminal illness, ignoring the substantive differences in causation and intent. The state should respect the individual’s autonomy and right of self-determination by removing the current legal prohibition against medical professionals and facilities assisting a patient to make this choice.
A person facing end of life decisions is confronted with an intensely personal choice, one at the very heart of the libertarian conception of self-ownership. Our death is arguably the single most personal event of our lives. While our death may impact our friends and loved ones, it remains our death and unlike our birth, we are capable of understanding its gravity and consequences. Some may not agree with a person’s choice to expedite an inevitable death or with the morality of that choice. Still others believe it is the most moral of sentiments to exercise self-control in an ongoing process of their dying, in order to preserve their personal dignity. For libertarians, the key commitment is that the government should not prevent that individual choice with the force of law. The individual patient is best situated to make their own moral and intellectual choices concerning their death and to choose the medical care that protects their personal dignity during the process of dying.
The End-of-Life Option Act is consistent with the Libertarian Party’s platform positions respecting personal autonomy and an individual’s choice of their health care, including “the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.”
We also commend the End-of-Life Option Act’s protection of the doctors and medical facilities’ choice to participate or not, which respects their autonomy to make their own ethical and professional choices. The bill sets forth procedural safeguards, including a requirement that two independent physicians certify the diagnosis of a terminal illness, that the decision is voluntarily undertaken (no coercion) and the patient is competent (no impaired judgment, including depression). The patient must personally and voluntarily initiate the process (it cannot be done through an agent, guardian, or durable power of attorney) and can rescind their decision to proceed at any time. The patient does this by making two verbal requests for the medicine, with the second request made no less than 15 days after the first request. At least one of the oral requests must be done while the patient is alone with the attending physician, to prevent undue influence by others. During the 15-day waiting period after the first request, the patient must also fill out a written form requesting the medication, witnessed by two people (only one of whom can be a relative, be entitled to a benefit from the patient’s death, or a person associated with the health care facility in which the patient is receiving treatment). The patient can receive the medication but is under no obligation to take the medication. The patient must be capable of self-administering the medicine.
The Libertarian Party of Maryland has joined with Compassion & Choices-Maryland and many other groups and individuals working to pass the bill. If you are interested in helping, we urge you to contact your legislators to urge their support. You can testify in support of the bills on February 15th in the House and February 19th in the Senate. You can also write letters to the editor in support of the legislation. Contact Eric Blitz with any questions at 410-812-7265.
Eric Blitz, Director of Legislative Affairs, Libertarian Party of Maryland
If you could vote to legalize cannabis, would you? You may be soon be given that choice. That’s the plan of advocates for legalization in Maryland. Delegate David Moon and Senator William C. Smith, Jr. have introduced a bill to put the issue to the voters of Maryland via an amendment to the Maryland constitution. Since polls show that more than a majority of Maryland voters support legalization, the only thing stopping legalization is that the legislature has to pass a bill to send it to the voters. That’s the plan, now we need the action. Testimony has been heard by the committees of the General Assembly, but we need the leadership’s help to get the bill out of committee. For years we’ve advocated on behalf of various legalization bills, but they always fail because committee chairs won’t give them an up or down vote. This is the year to put legalization to the voters of Maryland. So if you are a Maryland resident, please consider contacting your legislative leaders and ask them to help move this bill through towards final passage.
So download the PDF using the link above and send it to the email or snail mail addresses listed. Help us, help you…gain greater liberty to decide the issue for yourself.
The Libertarian Party of Maryland joined three other organizations in a letter in opposition to SB 970, a bill which would unnecessarily and inappropriately compromise the public accountability values of the Maryland Public Information Act by creating a dangerous categorical ban on the public release of some police body camera footage. Yesterday, the Judicial Proceedings Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report notwithstanding the House having passed the companion bill HB 767 on a 133-3 vote. We are hopeful that this will forestall passage of this legislation.
Below is a copy of the letter in opposition sent to the Judicial Proceedings Committee on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, the ACLU of Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and CASA.
There is a balance to be struck between privacy interests and ensuring public accountability of police conduct. Body cameras have proven a useful tool to improve public accountability. The Maryland Public Information Act already provides a reasonable balance to protect body camera footage from violating the privacy of citizens. SB 970 would alter that balance and set a dangerous precedent that could further erode public transparency via the Maryland Public Information Act. We are grateful to the ACLU of MD’s leadership and tireless advocacy on this issue.
Our ballot access reform bill receives a hearing this Thursday, March 2nd, before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would revise the way parties like the Libertarian Party of Maryland retains its legal status, requiring that we maintain at least 10,000 registered voters. Since we have over 20,000 registered Libertarians and our registrations are growing, we would effectively have guaranteed ballot access for Libertarian candidates to spread the message of liberty if this bill is passed.
What we need from you is to contact your Delegates by email to ask them to support HB 707 as soon as possible, but at least before Thursday the 2nd. Working with our coalition partners in the Coalition for Common Sense Ballot Access, we have developed a sample email that you can use. Follow this TAKE ACTION link to see how to identify your Delegates and their email links, sample language in support of the bill, and a “one-pager” that gives a basic description of the bill.
Note that support for HB 707 has been endorsed by FairVote Action and ballot expert Richard Winger.
Our party is again supporting legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that cures an inconsistency between the standards by which a political party originally qualifies as a recognized party and the standard to maintain recognition. It is this legal standard for party recognition that allows party candidates to be nominated and placed on the ballot, giving Marylanders an important additional choice when voting.
The amendment changes one of the two alternate standards for a party to re-qualify. Instead of requiring 1% of registered voters, the bill would require 10,000 registered voters, matching the petitioning requirement of 10,000 signatures necessary to form a new political party. It is a simple, two-page bill that changes one word.
Currently the LPMD is qualified to place candidates on the ballot through 2018 because our Presidential candidate received over 1% of the total votes cast in Maryland (Gary Johnson received 2.9%). Before that, we retained qualified status because our Gubernatorial candidate, Shawn Quinn, exceeded 1.5% of the vote, the first time a third-party had done this in 44 years. An alternative standard for party re-qualification is that the party have 1% of the total registered voters register as Libertarians as of the end of each year. To our knowledge, no third-party has re-qualified in Maryland through this standard. As of December 31, 2016, the registered voters necessary to reach the 1% threshold was 39,706. As of that date, Libertarians had 19,904 and the Greens 9,263 affiliated voters, so they would not qualify under that standard.
When parties do not re-qualify, they must petition to obtain 10,000 signatures of registered voters in Maryland as if they are starting anew, a time-consuming, laborious, and expensive process. The petitioning process is made more difficult because so many signatures are disqualified on technicalities, so that a party really needs to obtain around 15,000 signatures to ensure success. Our legislation makes sense because if 10,000 registered voters, who are not necessarily libertarian (in fact, most are not) can sign a petition to demonstrate that the party has a sufficient minimum level of support in Maryland, then having 10,000 registered voters affiliated with that party is more than sufficient to demonstrate that support. An affiliated voter has, by definition, demonstrated support for a particular political party. Therefore, the discrepancy between the 10,000-petitioning requirement to form a party and the variable standard of 1% of registered voters should be eliminated by replacing the 1% standard with 10,000 affiliated registrations.
We have helped form the Coalition for Common Sense Ballot Access with the Green Party of Maryland, Constitution Party of Maryland, and the Ujima People’s Progress Party. You can follow the coalition’s work on behalf of this bill on its website, Facebook and Twitter. The Coalition is seeking endorsements for this bill and has obtained its first endorsement from FairVote Action. If you have a relationship with any organizations you think might be willing to endorse this bill, please contact us.
We expect the bill to be filed by the primary sponsor very soon. It will be identical to the bills we supported in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The Maryland Libertarian Party will again be working with legislators and advocacy groups to advance pro-freedom legislation.
The Libertarian Party of Maryland endorses passage of a Death with Dignity Act in the coming spring session of the General Assembly of Maryland.
Introduced in the 2015 legislative session, the Death with Dignity Act’s core purpose is to allow a terminally ill adult resident of Maryland (those with a prognosis of six months or less to live) the freedom to choose to voluntarily take a prescribed dosage of medicine to aid in dying. The bill does not allow euthanasia, which would remain illegal. The bill contains significant procedural protections to ensure the individual is competent to make the choice, is making an informed decision, and is not subject to undue influence or coercion. We urge our supporters to take action to support this legislation as outlined below.
A person facing end of life decisions is confronted with an intensely personal choice, one at the very heart of the libertarian conception of self-ownership. Some may not agree with a person’s choice to expedite an inevitable death or with the morality of that choice. Still others believe it is the most moral of sentiments to exercise self-control in the process of their dying, to preserve their personal dignity. For libertarians, the key commitment is that the government should not prevent that individual’s choice with the force of law.
Though it may be renamed, the bill to be introduced in 2016 is likely to be very similar to the 2015 legislation, which you can read for yourself. Here are the bill’s key points:
Only competent, adult, Maryland residents who have a terminal illness can make this choice. The bill sets forth the means of establishing that these criteria are met, including a requirement that 2 independent physicians certify the diagnosis of a terminal illness, that the decision is voluntarily undertaken (no coercion) and the patient is competent (no impaired judgment, including depression).
The patient must personally and voluntarily initiate the process (it cannot be done through an agent, guardian, or durable power of attorney) and can rescind their decision to proceed at any time. The patient does this by making 2 oral requests for the medicine, with the second request made no less than 15 days after the first request. During the 15 day waiting period after the first request, the patient must also fill out a written form requesting the medication, witnessed by two people (only one of whom can be a relative, be entitled to a benefit from the patient’s death, or a person associated with the health care facility in which the patient is receiving treatment). There is an additional 48 hour waiting period between the signing of the request form and the writing of a prescription by the physician. After 48 hours, the patient can receive the medication but is under no obligation to take it at that time. The patient must be capable of self-administering the medicine.
The bill protects individuals, including medical providers and institutions, from civil and criminal liability for participating in good faith compliance with the procedural and medical protections of the act. The bill also allows physicians, health care facilities, and individual employees of health care facilities to elect not to participate in such services.
The bill makes it a felony to alter or forge a written request for aid in dying or to conceal or destroy a rescission of the required written request for aid in dying with the intent or effect of causing the patients death. It is also a felony to exert undue influence on a patient to make a written request for the purpose of ending the patient’s life or to destroy a rescission.
Finally, a patient’s death is not a suicide and is deemed a death from natural causes. Life or health insurance benefits, annuities or other contracts cannot be conditioned or affected by making or rescinding a request for aid in dying and such contracts made after the law’s effect cannot include a limitation or otherwise attach consequences to such. Similarly, the rates charged for a life, health, or accident insurance or annuity cannot be conditioned upon making or rescinding a request for aid in dying.
To learn more, you can review this Fact Sheet and Answers to Misconceptions about a Death with Dignity Law prepared by Compassion & Choices.