Mass. End of Life Options Act Sponsors, Supporters Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bill During Lame-Duck Session
Cite Strong Public Support for Compassionate Legislation Among State Resident, Doctors
November 9, 2020
Citing a recently released Massachusetts poll, sponsors and supporters of the End of Life Options Act held a Zoom rally today at 4 p.m. to urge state lawmakers to utilize the post-election session to enact the legislation into law this year.
According to a Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll published in September, seven out of 10 Massachusetts residents (70%) support the End of Life Options Act, which would allow terminally ill adults to have the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end unbearable suffering. In addition, a 2017 internal survey of Massachusetts Medical Society members showed they support the End of Life Options Act by more than a 2-1 margin: 62 percent support vs. 28 percent oppose (see page 9 chart at www.massmed.org/Advocacy/State-Advocacy/MAID-Survey-2017/).
The Joint Committee on Public Health approved the End of Life Options Act (S. 2745/H. 4782) in June for consideration by the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for the first time since the original legislation was introduced by Rep. Kafka in 2011. The End of Life Options Act has 88 cosponsors, including the lead sponsors in the House and Senate, Representative Louis L. Kafka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Will Brownsberger, both of whom participated in the Zoom rally.
“COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of life, the tragedy of loved ones dying alone, in a hospital or nursing home, without the care and comfort of loved ones and the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering especially at the end of life,” said Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices, which hosted the Zoom rally. “We urge state lawmakers to pass this bill in 2020, so terminally ill state residents have the option to die peacefully, at home, surrounded by their loved ones.”
“As his organs started to fail, his pain stopped responding to palliative care,” said Westborough dental hygienist Amanda Baudanza, whose husband TJ was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at age 28. ”TJ endured weeks of unnecessary suffering and spent his final days in excruciating unbearable pain. I made a promise that I would continue to fight for this legislation and try and get it passed so that others don’t have to suffer the way he did. We have to get this passed before the end of the session.”
“I desperately want to live, but I’m dying,” said Gloucester resident Lee Marshall, a psychotherapist and retired registered nurse, who has metastatic breast cancer. “Massachusetts medical aid-in-dying bill is my hope for a peaceful death. I’m terrified of lingering pain. I am imploring Massachusetts lawmakers to listen to their terminally ill constituents, to their constituents who have seen a loved one die needlessly painful deaths, full of suffering, and to have the compassion to pass the End of Life Options Act.”
“If I am infected with Covid-19, I have a strong likelihood of dying alone in a hospital, like hundreds of thousands of other people,” said retired Falmouth physician Dr. Roger Kligler, who has stage IV metastatic prostate cancer. “So I ask the Legislature, ‘Why is it taking you so long to pass this urgent, compassionate, popular legislation?’ We need a floor vote in both houses of the Legislature this year before more of us die with unnecessary suffering.”
“…a minority of people in the disability community here in Boston are very vocal against it and their opposition is unfounded,” said Lexington resident Michael Martignetti, who has an incurable, neuromuscular, often life-shortening disease, called Friedreich’s ataxia.“Call your legislators, email them, text them, use social media and persuade them with every ounce of your ability to pass this bill before the end of the session…My peaceful death and your peaceful death depends on it.”
“At 91, [my father’s] heart started to fail,” said Framingham resident Molly Walsh. “As a doctor, he knew that dying from heart failure was a very difficult and often prolonged death. My father started to refuse all medications, food, and fluids. On day eight, he could no longer speak, but he suddenly started grimacing and pounding his fist on the bed clearly in pain, most likely from a heart attack. He died two hours later. The best way I know to honor him is to work to make sure other people have kinder deaths.”
“Patients and their loved ones often turn to nurses for information and guidance about end-of-life care,” said Regina Mestre, a registered nurse who cares for terminally ill patients and supports medical aid in dying. “Unfortunately, during this time of pandemic, many patients are in our hospitals and nursing homes without family members for comfort. We see firsthand the fragility of life and sometimes the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering. As a nurse and a woman of color, I urge members of the legislator to vote on this bill today.”
“As a person of faith,” said Elias Lieberman of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, a former hospice chaplain. “I respect the fact that others may have deeply held beliefs rooted in their faith traditions about suffering and end of life choices, They would be free under the End of Life Options Act to make choices in keeping with their beliefs. But no one’s belief should override the choices of others when it comes to the most fundamental and meaningful decisions about what we must endure if we are terminally ill and experiencing unbearable suffering.”
“‘Let’s put up the vote. Let’s act now,’” said Christy Davis Jackson, a member of Compassion & Choices African American Leadership Council and an attorney in New Jersey, where medical aid in dying was authorized in 2019. “Medical aid in dying should be a choice available, especially to our brown communities everywhere. Massachusetts has the opportunity to be a leader in this realm.”
Other supporters of the End of Life Options Act include the ACLU of Massachusetts, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Amherst Town Meeting, Boston Ethical Society, Cambridge City Council, Falmouth Board of Selectmen, Falmouth Jewish Congregation, Fenway Health, First Parish of Lexington Universalist Unitarian, Greater Boston Humanists, Greater Worcester Humanists, Lexington Board of Selectmen, Massachusetts Chapter of National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Northampton City Council, Provincetown Board of Selectmen, and The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth.
Ten U.S. jurisdictions have authorized medical aid in dying: California (2015), Colorado (2016), Hawai‘i (2018), Maine (2019), Montana (2009 via a Montana Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey (2019), Oregon (1997) Vermont (2013), Washington (2008), as well as Washington, D.C. (2017). Collectively, these jurisdictions represent more than one of out of five people (22%) U.S. residents.