For 1st Time, Mass. Joint Committee on Health Care Financing Approves End of Life Options Act

Advocates Thank Lawmakers for Advancing Bill
April 29, 2024

Terminally ill patients and caregivers of loved ones who have died with unbearable suffering praised the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for approving the End of Life Options Act (S.1331/H.2246) and referring the bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee last Thursday. The bill’s approval follows bill supporters’ riveting testimony at the Legislature’s Public Health Committee hearing last October.

“This is the first time a medical aid-in-dying bill in Massachusetts has been moved favorably out of both the Joint Committee on Public Health and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing,” said Melissa Stacy, northeast campaign director for Compassion & Choices Action Network. “I’m very thankful to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing Chairs Friedman and Lawn and the committee members who voted to move the bill forward favorably. I’m very happy to see this historic movement to help alleviate unbearable suffering for terminally ill patients.”

In a December 2022 editorial endorsing the End of Life Options Act, The Boston Globe cited the bill’s numerous safeguards, noting the bill includes “strict requirements” for a patient to request medically assisted death, and called the bill the “most cautious and comprehensive in the country.”

Sponsored by Senator Jo ComerfordRepresentatives James O’Day, and Ted Philips, and cosponsored by 84 other lawmakers, the bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults to have the option to obtain prescription medication they could decide to take to peacefully end intolerable suffering. New testifiers supporting the bill include:

“My late wife Meri Myles, who was terminally afflicted with ALS when she testified remotely to the committee, would certainly be pleased,’” said Concord resident Mark Myles. “The prohibition on medical aid in dying is anything but ‘pro-life.’ No, it is pro-suffering, senseless, undignified, inhumane. It is torture.”

ALS patient Meri Myles testifying at a Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health hearing in 2021

the late als patient meri myles testifying at ma hearing in 2021

ALS patient Meri Myles testifying at a Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health hearing in 2021\

Nearly three out of four Massachusetts voters (73%) support the End of Life Options Act and nearly eight out of ten voters (79%) support the bill after they learn about its safeguards, according to a March Beacon Research poll. At least seven in 10 voters (70%-75%) in every state region support the bill, as do 79% of Democrats, 71% of unenrolled voters, 68% of Republicans, 89% of strongly pro-choice voters, 68% of moderate pro-choice voters, a plurality of pro-life voters (47% vs. 43%), 68% of Catholic voters, 71% of Protestant voters, 68% of voters living with a disability, 76% of white voters and 63% of voters of color.

A 2017 internal survey of Massachusetts Medical Society members showed they support the End of Life Options Act by a 2-1 margin: 62% support vs. 28% oppose (see page 9 chart here).

Medical aid in dying is an end-of-life care option in neighboring Vermont, and nearby Maine, as well as eight other states CaliforniaColoradoHawaiiMontana (via a state Supreme Court ruling), New JerseyNew MexicoOregonWashington, and Washington, D.C.

A 2019 University of Pittsburgh School of Law report concluded the experience in the numerous states and Washington, D.C., where medical aid in dying is authorized, “puts to rest most of the arguments that opponents of authorization have made — or at least those that can be settled by empirical data. The most relevant data — namely, those relating to the traditional and more contemporary concerns that opponents of legalization have expressed — do not support and, in fact, dispel the concerns of opponents.”

The use of hospice care among Medicare recipients has more than doubled over the past two decades. Yet, studies estimate that nearly 70% of cancer patients who receive low doses of opioids to treat background pain (pain experienced for more than half the waking days during the previous week) still experience severe bouts of breakthrough painCancer is by far the most common diagnosis among terminally ill individuals who qualify for medical aid in dying.

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.