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