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Right-to-die legislation needed in Maryland

It's encouraging that the organizers of the Death Cafe event are dedicating themselves to helping people prepare for the death that will come to us all ("Lively discussion dominates Death Cafe," June 26).

My own experiences tell me that this kind of preparation — and the discussions that are part of it — are sorely needed. The death of my husband almost seven years ago and my own diagnosis with metastatic cancer two-and-a-half years ago have put the issue of death at the forefront of my mind.

I was struck by one member of the group who didn't want to discuss the issue of being allowed to end one's own life. But as a result of my personal experiences and my four decades as a clinical social worker, including 20 years in a private psychotherapy practice, I'm one of a growing number of people who want to bring to Maryland the option of Aid in Dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

The Aid in Dying option, also known as Death with Dignity, allows a physician to prescribe life-ending medication that will bring about a peaceful death at the time of the person's choosing and in the circumstances that are important to her or him.

The Aid in Dying option is now legal in the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and, most recently, Vermont. A number of other states are considering legislation to add this end-of-life option.

I'm a proponent of the wonderful strides that have been made in end-of-life care through hospice and palliative care services. However, not all pain and suffering can be alleviated by currently available means. Many people continue to suffer and to end their lives in hospitals having undergone extensive treatments that are difficult to experience and are not life-saving or life-enhancing.

Some also end their lives themselves in more aversive ways. Those who care about the dying person often suffer the trauma of end-of-life circumstances. Personal finances can be depleted. It's well known that the largest portion of health care expenditures are made in the last years and months of a person's life.

I'm so glad to hear about the Death Café movement coming to Maryland and that the discussion of end-of-life issues is advancing. We need to consider the issue of exercising self-determination as part of the discussion.

Catherine Weber, Annapolis

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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