My dying wish: Pass the Maryland End-of-Life Option Act | GUEST COMMENTARY

Doctors recently told me that my metastatic prostate cancer is incurable, and I have six months or less to live. I have a great relationship with my doctor. I have enrolled in hospice care to ease my symptoms.

I also have done my homework: While Medicare hospice use has nearly doubled over the past decade, studies estimate that 65% to 85% of patients with advanced cancer experience significant pain that can be attributed to the disease itself or to treatment.


If my end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable despite hospice care, my doctor cannot prescribe medical aid in dying to peacefully end my suffering, even if she wanted to, because this option is not legally authorized in Maryland, as it is in neighboring Washington, D.C. and 10 states.

Unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility that I won’t live long enough to testify in support of the End of Life Option Act that would authorize medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill Marylanders like me during the upcoming 2023 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11. That’s why I am speaking up now, while I still can.


I found out that my prostate cancer had metastasized at the end of 2019. I’ve done what I can to slow the progression of my cancer, including chemo and radiation, and the quality-of-life costs of treatment were hard. The final radiation offered by my doctors required washing my hands five times whenever I used the restroom. Any chemo spillage and I’d have to call in a hazmat team to clean it up. I couldn’t be around my grandchildren. I couldn’t roll over in bed and kiss my wife. It wasn’t for me, and at this point, there’s really nothing that can be done to abate my cancer.

I’ve heard people say that medical aid in dying results in people giving up early, but it’s not in human nature to give up easily. We naturally fight to live. I’m in no hurry to make my exit. The world is a beautiful place.

I’ve had a great life, full of joy, love, travel and meaning. I retired from the federal government after serving as a project architect on a major renovation at the White House and other federal buildings over the years. However, my most long-lasting vocation and enjoyment have come from being a photographer. For more than 60 years, I have photographed everything I could, including the war protests in the ‘60s, the 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. assassination riots, and, most recently, I proudly photographed the Women’s March in 2017.

I still want to spend time with my family, go for nice drives, enjoy time at the beach and take more photos. It’s the little things. I just want control over the way I go out. I want control over when I think the time is right for me. I don’t want to sneak off somewhere and die by myself. No one wants that for me.

That’s why I’ve given serious thought to the option of medical aid in dying. I have a friend whose father had a death that was peaceful, thanks to medical aid in dying. It was relatively easy, it was calm. As much as possible, I want to ensure I can have a peaceful passing. I want to avoid being in pain in agony, kicking and screaming on my way out.

My wife and I have a condo in Colorado, where our daughters and grandchildren live, and where medical aid in dying is authorized, so we could relocate there, but the eight hours of travel is daunting. I no longer have the energy for a whole day of travel. I’m a lifelong resident of Maryland. It’s home. I figured we should see if we can help pass Maryland’s End-of-Life Option Act. That’s what I really want. That’s what makes sense to me.

For someone who is already dying, I want to say when I’m ready to go, not when the cancer is ready to take me. The person going through it should be the one in control.

I believe that we all have a civic responsibility to ensure our values of justice, equality and human dignity are upheld. People must advocate for issues that severely affect their quality of life. That’s why I’m advocating for Maryland’s End of Life Option Act.


I urge Maryland lawmakers to pass this compassionate legislation, whether or not I’m still around. There will be numerous other Marylanders who will need this gentle dying option.

Ron Dickey lives with his wife, Linda Lampkin, in Baltimore. He can be reached via Linda’s email at