Massachusetts Doctor with Stage 4 Cancer Featured in PBS Documentary on Medical Aid in Dying
Documentary Is Timely Since Mass. End of Life Options Act Has Record Number of Bill Sponsors
April 8, 2021
Massachusetts stations will start airing a PBS documentary about medical aid in dying on Friday night featuring a retired internist in Falmouth with stage IV cancer, Dr. Roger Kligler, who also is a Compassion & Choices volunteer advocate for passing the End of Life Options Act (SD801/HD1456).
The documentary, “When My Time Comes,” hosted by former syndicated NPR show host Diane Rehm, is timely since the Massachusetts medical aid-in-dying legislation has a record 62 House sponsors and the Senate bill has 18 sponsors.
“Twenty-five percent of people who die with chronic illness, die with uncontrolled pain,” says Dr. Kligler in the documentary. “I always would tell my patients that just because you’ve got a terminal condition doesn’t mean that you’re dead yet. That you should go on, you should continue living your life, you should seek the beauty that’s in it and the enjoyment that you can.”
“When My Time Comes,” will air on Boston PBS station WGBX-TV on Friday, 10:30 pm, and Saturday, 7 pm, Boston PBS station WGBH-TV on Sunday, 7 pm, and Springfield-Worcester PBS World channel WGBY-DT2 on Sunday, 8 pm. To find out what day(s) and time(s) “When My Times Comes” will air in other local markets across the country, visit whenmytimecomesmovie.com/see-
“‘When My Times Comes’ is a great showcase to put a human touch on the urgency of providing terminally ill Massachusetts residents with the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable,” said Dr. Kligler. “After all, their time is coming very soon, so they need lawmakers to act promptly and pass the End of Life Options Act as soon as possible this year.”
According to a Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll published last September, 7 out of 10 Massachusetts residents (70%) support the End of Life Options Act, including a majority in each region of the state (Worcester/Western Massachusetts: 70%, Suffolk County: 75%, Southeast Massachusetts/Cape: 68%). These results mirror a 2014 Purple Insights survey that also showed 70% of Massachusetts voters support medical aid in dying, including a majority of Catholics (64%) and people with disabilities (75%).
A 2017 internal survey of Massachusetts Medical Society members showed they support the End of Life Options Act by a 2-1 margin: 62 percent support vs. 28 percent oppose (see page 9 chart here).
Spurred on by the agonizing death of her husband John from Parkinson’s disease, Rehm, a Peabody-award-winning journalist, speaks to people on all sides of the issue, uncovering the facts and the misinformation about this medical practice. Rehm co-produced the documentary with Joe Fab and Diane Naughton.
“My darling John died in 2014 and that experience made this issue very personal,” says Rehm in the documentary. “The doctor at the nursing home had said he was within six months of dying. And John turned to the doctor and said, I am ready to die and I want you to help me. And the doctor said, here in the state of Maryland, I have not the legal authority, the moral authority or any other authority by which to help you die … And John, for the first time in a long time, became enraged.”
In 2019, Rehm testified in support of legislation to authorize medical aid in dying in Maryland, sitting side-by-side with Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan.
“Millions of Americans know and trust Diane Rehm because they have listened to her for decades on public radio,” said Callinan. “Her credibility, interviewing skills, and the needless end-of-life suffering she details in this documentary should help open the hearts and minds of lawmakers about the importance of making this peaceful dying option available in every state.”
In addition to Massachusetts, nine other states currently are considering medical aid-in-dying bills: Connecticut (HB6425), Indiana (HB1074), Kansas (HB2202), Kentucky (HB506), New York (A04321), Rhode Island (H5572), Minnesota (SF1352/HF1358), Nevada (AB351), and Pennsylvania (SB405).
Four states are considering legislation to improve access to current medical aid-in-dying laws: California (SB380), Hawai‘i (SB839/HB487/HB323); Vermont (S74), and Washington (HB1141).
“These conversations are not actually about dying,” says Compassion & Choices President Emeritus Barbara Coombs Lee. “They’re about the quality of our lives.”
“It’s been such a taboo subject for many of us for too long,” says Rehm near the end of the documentary. “But if we can discuss what we want with our friends, our doctors, our families, if we can make our own wishes known to those who care about us, everyone will be more prepared, and the end of life will be less stressful and could be more joyous for us all.”
You can watch a few minutes of the documentary highlights at whenmytimecomesmovie.com.
Compassion & Choices is comprised of two organizations that improve care and expand options at life’s end: Compassion & Choices (501(c)(3)) educates, empowers, defends, and advocates; the Compassion & Choices Action Network (501(c)(4)) focuses exclusively on legislation, ballot campaigns, and limited electoral work.
Paid for Compassion & Choices Action Network.