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Truly compassionate care and death with dignity: How the Center for Successful Aging at Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital is transforming care at the end of life by putting the patient first

The elderly man was tied to his hospital bed, screaming, with tubes protruding in multiple directions. To then third-year medical resident Dr. George Hennawi, the scene was not only frustrating, but would prove life-changing.

The day Hennawi walked into the man’s hospital room, Hennawi had no plans to focus his career on the care of those at the end of their lives. Rather, he had recently signed up for a different fellowship. But the view that greeted him in that room that day would stick with Hennawi and become the catalyst that would change his career, and ultimately shape the future of geriatric medicine in Baltimore.

“I felt we need to do better for older adults. We are so focused on illness that we forget what matters to people. So much of the time we forget about the humanity in medicine,” he said from his office at the Center for Successful Aging at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore City, where he serves as director.

Started in 2013 under Hennawi’s leadership, the Center for Successful Aging works to provide comprehensive care for adults generally age 65 and older, some of whom are approaching the end of life, by employing what is known as person-centered care, or care that places the person rather than the disease first.

Hennawi said his vision was to create a place where older adults could get all of their services in one location from a team — that includes nurse practitioners, doctors, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, community health workers and specialists — which creates a plan of care based on the desires of the patient.

Dr. George Hennawi


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For the first time, Maryland’s full House of Delegates will consider whether or not to legalize physician-assisted suicide. But there is still time to stop this dangerous bill from passing and protect life in Maryland.

“While the vote on March 1 was disappointing to all those who have worked hard to protect Maryland from the dangerous practice of physician-assisted suicide, the issue is far from decided,” said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “The more people who speak up now and tell their elected officials to stand against physician-assisted suicide, the better chance we have of making sure it remains out of Maryland.”

The Maryland Catholic Conference has made it easy to speak up and tell your delegates that you stand firmly against assisted suicide. The Conference is asking all people who oppose this dangerous practice, which would put our most vulnerable at grave risk, to write their lawmakers NOW and ask them to VOTE NO when HB 399 comes to the House floor next week. As a voter, your voice matters and HB 399 still can be stopped, but only if you make your opposition heard.

Please take action this weekend, as the House will likely be voting early next week.


Want to make sure you are kept in the loop on physician-assisted suicide and other important pieces of legislation? Register for the Catholic Advocacy Network and be among the first to know when your voice is needed! Click below to sign up, get engaged and take action.


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For the first time ever, Maryland's full House of Delegates will take up the dangerous physician-assisted suicide bill, despite strong opposition. In a narrow 24-20 vote, the House Health and Government Operations and the House Judiciary committees voted on March 1 to send HB 399, the "End of Life Options Act," to the full House floor for a vote. The vote is expected early next week.

"At this very minute, Life is under attack in Maryland," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Never before has the bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide received a vote in committee and been advanced to the floor, so it is critical that those who support the dignity of Life in our state speak up now. We are grateful to everyone who has written and called their legislators in the past few weeks, but we need everyone to continue to speak up in a united voice with a clear message: Physician-assisted suicide is a danger to Maryland citizens and does not belong in our state."

Maryland's House of Delegates will take up the bill likely early next week. If the bill passes the House, it will move to the Maryland Senate for consideration.

The Senate is currently considering its own version of the bill, SB 311, but the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has yet to schedule it for a committee vote. 

Out-of-state interests, led by Oregon-based Compassion and Choices, have targeted Maryland as a priority state for passing physician-assisted suicide. Current Maryland law makes assisting in the suicide of another person a felony punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or one year in prison, or both. HB 399, modeled after the law in Oregon, seeks to make it legal to assist in the suicide of another with only a handful of inadequate safeguards to protect vulnerable persons from coercion, no safeguards to prevent an influx of dangerous and addictive drugs into the community, and no accountability for those who engage in the practice. 



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House Committees to Vote on Assisted Suicide This Friday

While there was great news out of Annapolis last weekend when House Speaker Michael Busch (D-30A) announced his plans to withdrawal a proposed constitutional amendment enshrining a woman’s “right” to an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, the dignity of life is still very much under attack in the State Capital. It is expected that this Friday afternoon, the House Health and Government Operations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee will jointly vote on a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state. If the bill passes out of Committee, it will be headed for consideration by the entire House of Delegates, where passage is likely. Now is the time to speak up in defense of all life at all stages.

If passed, this bill would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of a controlled dangerous substance, which they would then pick-up at their local pharmacy and ingest without medical supervision to end their life. This bill, in addition to having no regard for the worth and dignity of every human life, establishes suicide as a societal norm, places large quantities of Schedule II prescription drugs into our communities with no measures in place for take-back or disposal, and leaves those suffering from mental illness, persons with intellectual disabilities, and our elderly at risk of coercion and undue influence by family members or caregivers. If we are to stop this bill, we must do so now. Please plan to call and email the Committee members listed below before the Committee votes on Friday afternoon.

Your voice will make the difference and our lawmakers need to hear from you. Respectfully tell them that you oppose House Bill 399 and that you urge them to vote no against legalizing assisted suicide in Maryland. Please take action today in defense of Life! To stay up to date on this and other important issues, CLICK HERE.


Delegate Shane Pendergrass - District 13 (Committee Chairwoman & Lead Sponsor of HB 399)
410-841-3139 |

Delegate Joseline Pena- Melnyk - District 21 (Vice Chairwoman)
410-841-3502 |

Delegate Heather Bagnall - District 33
410-841-3406 |

Delegate Erek Barron - District 24
410-841-3692 |

Delegate Harry Bhandari - District 7
410-841-3526 |

Delegate Alfred C. Carr, Jr. - District 18
410-841-3638 |

Delegate Nick Charles - District 25
410-841-3707 |

Delegate Brian Chisolm - District 31B
410- 841-3206 |

Delegate Bonnie Cullison – District 19
410-841-3883 |

Delegate Terri Hill - District 12
410-841-3378 |

Delegate Steve Johnson - District 34A
410-841-3280 |

Delegate Ariana Kelly - District 16
410-841-3642 |

Delegate Ken Kerr - District 3B
410-841-3240 |

Delegate Nic Kipke - District 31B
410-841-3421 |

Delegate Susan Krebs - District 5
410-841-3200 |

Delegate Robbyn Lewis - District 46

Delegate Matt Morgan – District 29A
410-841-3170 |

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg - District 41
410-841-3297 |

Delegate Sid Saab - District 33
410-841-3551 |

Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes - District 37A
410-841-3427 |

Delegate Kathy Szeliga - District 7
410-841-3698 |

Delegate Karen Lewis- Young - District 3A
410-841-3436 |


Delegate Luke Clippinger - District 46 (Committee Chairman)

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary - District 13 (Vice Chairwoman)

Delegate Curt Anderson - District 43
410-841-3291 |

Delegate Lauren Arikan - District 7
410-841-3334 |

Delegate Sandy Bartlett - District 32
410-841-3370 |

Delegate Jon Cardin - District 11
410-841-3054 |

Delegate Frank Conaway - District 40
410-841-3189 |

Delegate Daniel Cox- District 4
410-841-3288 |

Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield - District 19
410-841-3485 |

Delegate Debra Davis - District 28
410-841-3337 |

Delegate Wanika Fisher - District 47B
410-841-3340 |

Delegate Robin Grammer - District 6
410-841-3298 |

Delegate Wayne Hartman - District 38C
410-841-3356 |

Delegate Jazz Lewis - District 24
410-841-3691 |

Delegate Lesley Lopez - District 39
410-841-3021 |

Delegate Michael Malone - District 33
410-841-3510 |

Delegate Susan McComas - District 34B
410-841-3272 |

Delegate David Moon - District 20
410-841-3474 |

Delegate Jesse Pippy - District 4
410-841-3118 |

Delegate Emily Shetty - District 18
410-841-3181 |

Delegate Charles Sydnor - District 44B
410-841-3802 |

Delegate Ron Watson - District 23B
410-841-3448 |

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Bill to expand fetal homicide law heard in Senate

Maryland's House and Senate are again considering legislation to expand our state's fetal homicide law to protect unborn children as young as 8 weeks development. 

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee heard testimony Friday, Feb. 22 on the Senate version of the bill (SB 561). The House Health and Government Operations Committee will hear testimony on its version of the bill (HB 757) on March 8. 

The state first took up this legislation last year, when the family of slain Howard County teacher Laura Wallen, sought to change Maryland law after Laura and her unborn son Reid were killed by Laura’s then-boyfriend Tyler Tessier but the state was unable to bring charges for the death of Reid because he was only about 14 weeks in development. The bill is known as Laura and Reid's Law.

“Laura and Reid’s law is an important step for Maryland to protect women who choose to have children only to have their children taken away from them through domesticnviolence,” said Therese Hessler, associate director at Maryland Catholic Conference.  

Mark Wallen, father of Laura and grandfather of Reid, told reporters on Thursday, Feb. 21, that while the bill will not bring more closure for all his family has suffered as a result of the loss of Laura and Reid, if the bill can bring justice to just one family, it is worth all the effort. 

Homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, and in Maryland, pregnant women are victimized at a rate that is 10 times the national average. 

To support efforts to pass Laura & Reid's Law, CLICK HERE

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Inspired at Catholics in Annapolis? Get involved!

Were you inspired by the speakers or by meeting with your legislators or their staff at Catholics in Annapolis? Wondering what to do now? Become a Parish Legislative Ambassador!

The Maryland Catholic Conference has a network of ambassadors at parishes across the state who make sure our work and the important issues are shared with their parish community. Parish Legislative Ambassadors or PLAs are a vital part of what we do and many of you came to Catholics in Annapolis because of their efforts to spread word of the event.

Many parishes still need an ambassador. If you are interested in learning more and possibly serving as PLA for your parish, please let us know! 

You can request to learn more about becoming a PLA by visiting:

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Standing room only at Catholics in Annapolis

A group of Catholics from the Westminster, Md. area pose outside the Miller Senate Office Building on Feb. 21.
photo credit: Fr. Mark Bialek, pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster (used with permission).


More than 400 Catholics from across Maryland packed the Miller Senate Office building in Annapolis on Thursday for the Maryland Catholic Conference's annual Catholics in Annapolis event. 

"We are humbled and grateful for how many people came from all corners of our state this year to Catholics in Annapolis," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference. "Your voices truly are the most powerful ones in Annapolis and we thank you for lifting them up in prayer and in defense of life, justice and human rights."

Security lines stretched out the door and around the block to enter the Senate building. Inside, it was standing room only for the Rosary — led by Bishop Francis Malooly and Msgr. Steven Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington — and to listen to speakers personally affected by the many issues being considered by the legislature — a new addition for 2019. 

When asked by Conference Deputy Director Garrett O'Day how many people were at the event for the first time, more than half of the hands in the room went up. Many made their way to Annapolis by taking one of the seven buses provided by the Conference from regions across the state, thanks to the generous support of the Maryland State Council of the Knights of Columbus. 

The heart of Catholics in Annapolis, now in its 35th year, is the time when those who attend meet personally with their legislators or their staff to advocate for important issues. MCC staff, interns and volunteers worked throughout January and February to ensure that every district represented on Feb. 21 met with at least one member or representative of their delegation.

"There are a lot of important issues our legislators are considering this year — from a proposed pro-abortion amendment to our state constitution and physician-assisted suicide, to stronger fetal homicide laws, human trafficking, and funding for BOOST scholarships," O'Day said. "Last night, those legislators heard from not a few, but hundreds of their constituents on these issues. And many for the first time. The impact of that is immeasurable." 

The evening ended with a reception, catered by the Light House Bistro Catering in Annapolis, a program of The Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center that provides persons experiencing barriers to employment with hands-on training and experience in the food service industry. And the famous Cardinal Shehan Choir returned to again share their talents. The choir, which traveled from Baltimore City, had the entire room rocking and dancing as they sang.  

Catholics in Annapolis happens each February in Annapolis. To keep up to date on the progress of the issues from Catholics in Annapolis, sign up for alerts. CLICK HERE to join the Catholic Advocacy Network.

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Octogenarian couple organizes busloads from their community to advocate in Annapolis

For more than 15 years, John and Cathy Stefano have been organizing parishioners from St. Louis in Clarksville to attend Catholics in Annapolis and other important events each legislative session, in some years bringing multiple busloads to Annapolis to meet with their legislators.

Their grassroots efforts have involved dozens of Marylanders in the legislative process over the past decade. But its knowing that the work they are doing is for a greater good that keeps the octogenarian couple from Columbia, Md. going.

In her wallet, Cathy carries two quotations to remind her why, at 80 years young, she is still doing grassroots political work.

“’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,’” she said, reading the words of Edmund Burke.

“We say it this way:” she continued. “Evil exists because good men and women are silent.”

Each general assembly session, legislators in Maryland gather for 90 days to actively address pressing concerns in our state and they encourage their constituents to get involved.

Her other quotation is from Mother Teresa: “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”

Cathy said she saw first-hand the apathy among voters and how few people speak up on important legislation when she worked as an aide in the office of a former delegate.

“She came home one day and said: ‘John, I don’t know why I’m going down there. I’m out of my mind,’” John said.

God, however, said something different. Cathy said she felt God tell her one day in Mass, as she contemplated leaving her job, to stay and to learn. So she did. For 5 more years, she learned all she could and now uses her knowledge to engage others in grassroots advocacy.

Cathy and John Stefano


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Catholics in Annapolis is NEXT WEEK!


We are less than 1 week away from Catholics in Annapolis, your annual chance to engage lawmakers for your Catholic faith! Thank you to everyone who has registered and reserved a seat on a bus. If you are planning to attend and have not registered PLEASE do so today! 

Visit to register!

We are excited that we will have the Cardinal Shehan Choir with us again this year to share their incredible talent during our reception.

Just a reminder that we will start this year's event by praying the Rosary at 3 p.m. We encourage each of you to join us for this prayer. If you have a rosary, please bring it along.

"For those who cannot be with us in Annapolis in person, we encourage you to take time at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21 to join us in prayer from wherever you are by praying the Rosary for our elected officials," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We know there is power in prayer and we hope everyone can join us on Thursday and lift up our state through prayer."

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Opponents of physician-assisted suicide pack hearing room

Dozens of opponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) wearing black with green stickers declaring "NO assisted suicide" packed into the joint hearing room on Friday to demonstrate the strong and growing opposition to making assisted suicide an option in Maryland.

It was standing room only in the joint hearing room where together the House Health & Government Operations Committee and the Judiciary Committee listened to testimony for hours.

The hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m., continued until well into the evening as dozens of individuals and representatives of organizations across Maryland were heard both for and against the bill. 

"Looking around the hearing room today, it is clear that more and more Marylanders do not support this dangerous practice," said Therese Hessler, associate director with the Maryland Catholic Conference. "This demonstrates the truth we know: that when people learn about this dangerous bill and what it actually does, they do not support it passing in Maryland."

To join with those speaking out against the bill and tell your delegates to OPPOSE physician-assisted suicide, CLICK HERE.

Maryland's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Tuesday, February 19 at 12 noon. Those who wish to attend in opposition can email and are reminded to wear black. 


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