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Maryland needs Mizeur's death with dignity law [Letter]

I disagree, strongly, with Ms. Catalfamo's letter ("Assisted suicide is not the answer," April 21), asserting that Del. Heather Mizeur's position on allowing aid in dying in Maryland is "perverted" and inconsistent with "a decent democracy." For me, and for many other seniors, respect for and support of an individual's end-of-life choices is absolutely central to American principles and values.

I believe that most of us are unable to imagine what it is like to suffer from a terminal illness. Not only do those patients often experience intractable pain, but they may also endure the loss of all those activities and personal connections that make their lives meaningful and joyful.

A Maryland law that allows people who have a terminal illness to achieve a peaceful death, including the possibility of sharing their last moments with loving friends and family, is a matter of individual freedom. The lack of such a law is "democracy" overriding personal liberty at one of the most important junctures in one's life.

Ms. Catalfamo points to the possibility of manipulation by family members. These concerns, however, are addressed, as they have been in Washington and Oregon (where there have been no instances of abuse or coercion), by safeguards in the law that protect against such intrusions on the patient's decision-making.

Ms. Catalfamo is correct that end-of-life choices are not objective. Indeed, they are completely subjective, and that is precisely the point. Our democracy, in making the choice that Ms. Mizeur supports available for terminally ill patients, validates the autonomy of each citizen — something at the core of our shared values.

I agree with Heather Mizeur. Maryland law should be changed to allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults to legally choose aid in dying when palliative and hospice care can no longer provide, for them, a satisfactory life.

Alan D. Eason, Catonsville

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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