Letter: Lawmakers should pass End of Life Options Act
To the editor:
I hope our Legislature will pass the End of Life Options Act, which will give those with a terminal illness the option to end unbearable pain and unrelieved suffering if they so choose.
There certainly is a growing awareness that individuals should speak with their loved ones to make their end-of-life wishes known. That is good, but not good enough.
My parents did what they could more than 30 years ago when they agreed that no extraordinary means be used to keep them alive if they were hospitalized. When my mother had Alzheimer's, she was not given a feeding tube when she was unable to eat. Though it was difficult to watch her starve to death, she was not in pain, and did not linger for years in a nursing home when she no longer recognized her husband of 56 years.
For my father, who was still very mentally alert at 95, his death was neither painless, nor was he in control of how to stop the pain. He had congestive heart failure, and he went to the hospital from a nursing home where he spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, much of the time on a ventilator. It was not a happy ending to a very long and happy life.
I realize the bill under consideration would not have helped my mother, because only people who are terminally ill and mentally capable can qualify to receive and self-administer the medication prescribed by a physician. This rules out people with advanced dementia and Alzheimer's. I'm certain, however, that my father's last year would have been better if this option had been available.
I hope our state legislators will cosponsor this bill when it is re-introduced in the 2019 legislature. Reps. Paul Mark and Smitty Pignatelli did so in the last session, and have pledged to do so again, as have many other veteran as well as newly-elected legislators from all over western Mass. I believe the bill will be a comfort and relief to both those who are at the end of their lives and their families. More information can be found at westernmassdeathwithdignity.org, or malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H1194.
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