Deborah Golden Alecson: Give your support to death with dignity law

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LENOX — It is crunch time to let our state representatives know that we want to have a dignified death when we are suffering from a terminal illness. This is possible with medical-aid-in-dying. Massachusetts is closer than ever to passing The End of Life Options Bill (H.1926/S.1208) that is currently being considered by the Joint Committee on Public Health. There was a Feb. 5 deadline to vote and pass this bill and this has been extended to April 1. This is a good sign for those of us in favor of having such legislation passed in Massachusetts.

A death with dignity bill has been legalized in 10 jurisdictions: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Those who are against having the option of medical-aid-in-dying legalized express a concern that such a bill would lack the safeguards needed to withstand abuse and coercion. These concerns are unfounded. Oregon has had its Death with Dignity Act in place since 1997. Here is a link of answers to questions regarding their Act which is similar to The End of Life Options Bill being considered in Massachusetts: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/faqs.pdf

This is a link to The End of Life Options Bill being considered in Massachusetts: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H192

There have been no abuses of medical-aid-in-dying legislation and this includes Oregon where it has been legal for twenty-three years. The Oregon Health Authority publishes an annual report with statistics regarding the demographics and illnesses of those who are eligible for medical-aid-in-dying, their particular end-of-lie-concerns, and the number of people eligible who chose not to take the lethal dose of medication and instead died of the disease process. The Report published on February 25, 2019 for the 2018 year states: "In 2018, 103 Oregon physicians wrote 249 prescriptions to dying Oregonians who qualified for the Act; 168 people died using the medications obtained under the law." Keep in mind that the population of Oregon is 4.2 million. This gives us a perspective on the prevalence of such request. Clearly people are not lining up at the end of life for medical-aid-in dying! Also, from the report: " the most frequently reported end-of-life concerns were loss of autonomy (91.7 percent), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (90.5 percent), and loss of dignity (66.7 percent)."

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For those who had prescriptions and did not take the lethal dose, there is evidence that just having the prescription brought psychological relief.

For those of us who want the option to ask for medical-aid-in-dying in our dying time we can do the following:

Contact your legislators, and urge them to contact JCPH Co-Chair John Mahoney and support passage of H.1926. To find the contact information for your legislators, go to malegislature.gov

Email the 4 chair members from the committee. You can send one email including them all, just cut and paste these addresses into your email browser: John.Mahoney@mahouse.gov, Chynah.Tyler@mahouse.gov, Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov, Nick.Collins@masenate.gov

The members of the Joint Committee on Public Health need to hear from us before April 1.

Deborah Golden Alecson is a frequent Eagle contributor.


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