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Boston Globe Publishes Story about People Who Received Aid-in-Dying Prescriptions

As Compassion & Choices volunteers in Massachusetts urge their lawmakers to pass the End of Life Options Act in 2020 (watch video highlights of Nov. 9 Zoom rally), on Sunday the Boston Globe published a nearly 3,000-word story profiling terminally ill people in Oregon and Washington who received prescriptions for medical aid in dying. The headline of the story asks the question “Will the option be available in Massachusetts?

Below are key excerpts of the article, followed by some important clarifying information to put the story in its proper context.

“In October 2019, Kathleen [Kreiss], a retired schoolteacher [and hospice patient suffering from heart failure in Washington State], did some online research and learned that Massachusetts does not have a medical aid-in-dying law. For two weeks she debated whether or not to call a Globe number passed along to her. Oh, why not? she finally decided. Maybe she could help advance the cause in Massachusetts.

“‘My family is in agreement,’ Kathleen said, in an interview. ‘I have the prescriptions filled. The target date is very likely to be Thanksgiving weekend. ’”

“In 2012, a Massachusetts referendum to permit medical aid-in-dying appeared on the statewide ballot. Early polling suggested voters were ready to pass it, but … under an opposition campaign led by the Catholic Church. The proposal failed, roughly 51 percent against to 49 percent in favor.

“Since then, supporters have worked to get medical aid-in-dying approved by the state Legislature, and believe momentum is slowly gathering to their side. In 2017, the most powerful physicians’ organization in the state, the Massachusetts Medical Society, dropped its opposition, after a survey of its members showed support for giving patients this choice.

“This year, for the first time we’ve been able to get [medical aid-in-dying] legislation moved out of the Joint Committee on Public Health,” said Roger Kligler, a Falmouth doctor [and Compassion & Choices volunteer] who has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic prostate cancer.

“Kligler has become one of the state’s foremost advocates for medical aid-in-dying legislation. He has spoken about his desire to have the option available if his cancer advances …

“A Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll conducted last November, as part of the Spotlight Team’s Last Words series about end-of-life disparities, found that 69.6 percent of Massachusetts adults believe medical aid-in-dying should be legal in the state, 19.4 percent disagree, and about 10 percent are undecided …” 

“That polling result is a bit more favorable…than public surveys conducted eight years ago, during the referendum campaign; a Suffolk poll in September 2012 found that 64 percent expected to vote yes …”

“The results of the 2012 referendum affirm that many of the state’s wealthiest, best-educated municipalities strongly supported medical aid-in-dying.”

What the Globe’s story failed to note is that opponents outspent supporters of the 2012 ballot initiative to authorize medical aid in dying by nearly a 5-1 margin (4.8 million vs. 1.1 million). The fact that the 2012 ballot initiative only narrowly failed to pass by two percentage points is remarkable. 

Finally, in contrast to the geographic disparity of support across the state in 2012, the 2019 Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll showed strong support statewide, from Worcester/Western Massachusetts (70%), to Suffolk (75%), and Southeast Massachusetts/Cape (68%).

In other words, Massachusetts residents across the state want their lawmakers to pass the End of Life Options Act before they recess in 2020.

The link to the full story is here.