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Three Groups Supporting Mass. End of Life Options Act Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bill During Post-Election Session

Compassion & Choices, Death with Dignity National Center, Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity issue joint statement

Citing a new Boston Globe editorial and recent Massachusetts poll, three end-of-life care advocacy groups jointly running the grassroots campaign to pass a medical aid-in-dying bill are urging 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 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/).

“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. “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.”

The Boston GlobeDaily Hampshire GazetteBerkshire Eagle, and Greenfield Recorder have urged the Legislature to enact the End of Life Options Act into law. The Globe editorial published last Sunday, Dec. 6, concluded:

“At the end of life, people should be able to choose dignity and less pain … Eight years ago, Massachusetts voters defeated a proposal to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives on their own terms, as opposed to in the excruciating pain and indignity that can mark their last days … A bill to legalize the practice is now before the Committee on Health Care Financing … the bill deserves passage … [T]he fact is that much has changed since 2012. The Massachusetts Medical Society, which then led the fight against aid-in-dying on ethical grounds, has shifted its stance on the issue; it is now officially neutral. The proposal itself is also different, adding a requirement that patients undergo a mental health evaluation. And social attitudes appear to be shifting.”

“Every person facing a terminal disease should have the right to make their own end-of-life decisions. In state after state where death-with-dignity laws are adopted, pain control and hospice care improve, and patients feel in control, whether they use the prescription to end their life or not,” said Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center.

The Joint Committee on Public Health approved the End of Life Options Act (H.4782/S.2745), which has dozens of cosponsors, in June for consideration by the Joint Committee on Public Financing for the first time since the original legislation was introduced by Rep. Louis L. Kafka in 2011.

John Berkowitz of Northampton, Director of Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity, said: “Maine and New Jersey passed a similar law last year and Vermont did seven years ago.  It’s time for Massachusetts to become the 10th state plus Washington DC to legalize this option of death with dignity for our terminally ill, mentally capable citizens.”

Other bill supporters include the ACLU of Massachusetts, AIDS Action Committee of MassachusettsAmherst Town MeetingBoston Ethical SocietyCambridge City CouncilFalmouth Board of SelectmenFalmouth Jewish CongregationFenway HealthFirst Parish of Lexington Universalist UnitarianGreater Boston Humanists, Greater Worcester Humanists, Lexington Board of SelectmenMassachusetts Chapter of National Association of Social Workers (NASW)Northampton City CouncilProvincetown Board of Selectmen, and The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth.

“COVID-19 has opened people’s eyes about the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering for terminally ill patients, so I plead with our lawmakers to pass this compassionate legislation this year,” said Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired physician in Falmouth with incurable prostate cancer, who has repeatedly testified in support of the End of Life Options Act before the Joint Committee on Public Health. “Every year the legislature fails to pass this very popular bill simply means more terminally ill Massachusetts residents will suffer needlessly at life’s inevitable end.”

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) testified at the hearing in June 2019 before the Joint Committee of Public Health on the bill, detailing its policy of “neutral engagement” on the practice of medical aid in dying: “The MMS will support its members regarding clinical, ethical, and legal considerations of medical aid-in-dying, through education, advocacy, and/or the provision of other resources…”

There are no documented cases of misuse involving medical aid in dying in the 10 U.S. jurisdictions where it has been authorized during the last two decades, starting with Oregon in 1997. The other nine jurisdictions include eight states: California (2015), Colorado (2016), Hawai‘i (2018), Maine (2019), Montana (2009 via a Montana Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey (2019), Vermont (2013), Washington (2008), as well as Washington, D.C. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one of out of five (22%) U.S. residents.

ABOUT COMPASSION & CHOICES

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand options for the end of life. More information is available at CompassionAndChoices.org/massachusetts.

ABOUT THE DEATH WITH DIGNITY NATIONAL CENTER: www.deathwithdignity.org

The mission of the Death with Dignity National Center is to expand the freedom of all qualified terminally ill Americans to make their own end-of-life decisions, including how they die; promote death with dignity laws around the United States based on the groundbreaking Oregon model; provide information and education about Death with Dignity, and mount legal defense of physician-assisted dying legislation.

ABOUT WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS DEATH WITH DIGNITY: westernmassachusettsdeathwithdignity.org

Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity informs the public about the Death with Dignity issue, and advocates for passage of The End of Life Options Act by the Legislature.

English Language Media Contact:

Sean Crowley, Compassion & Choices, (202) 495-8520, [email protected]org

Rebecca Schlessigner, Death with Dignity National Center, 503-501-2460, [email protected]deathwithdignity.org

John Berkowitz, Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity, 413-387-8439, [email protected]gmail.com

Spanish Language Media Contact:

Patricia A. González-Portillo, (323) 819-0310, pportillo@compassionandchoices.org


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