Assisted suicide backers appeal to Mass. lawmakers

BOSTON — Supporters of legislation that would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the right to self-administer life-ending drugs made their case at the State House earlier this week.
Advocates delivered almost 7,000 petitions signed by Massachusetts citizens who favor the legislation to lawmakers Wednesday. The legislation would require the terminally ill to fill out a form stating they understand that the drugs they are requesting from their doctors are intended to result in death. Under the bill, the terminally ill person must be competent and acting voluntarily — and the request must be witnessed by at least two other individuals.
Marie Manis of Compassion and Choices helped organize the effort.
Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization in the United States working to improve patients’ rights and choices at the end of life. Its primary, though not sole function, is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options.
Manis said a group of about 40 people visited the offices of members of the Public Health Committee Wednesday to encourage undecided senators to vote in favor of the legislation.
In 2012, a ballot question that would also have allowed patients to self-administer life-ending drugs prescribed by physicians was narrowly defeated. Opponents outspent supporters on an advertising campaign urging voters to reject the proposal, said Manis. A new piece of legislation is being considered once again.
“There was 68 percent support in polls into October of 2012,” Manis said of the first death with dignity bill. She said a negative ad campaign from opponents scared people and it was defeated by 50,000 votes.
Manis said the group was received favorably a the State House this week. One member of the committee they did not meet with was Sen. Donald F. Humason (R-Westfield) who was not available that day. Humason is new to the committee and said this week he would be happy to talk with supporters of the legislation but he would vote against it.
“I’m uncomfortable with the thought of a state agent, AKA doctors, assisting people in taking their own lives,” Humason said. “Too many things could go wrong.”
Humason said he understands why a terminally ill person would consider the option if offered, but he would not support it.
“Doctors take the hypocratic oath to do no harm,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of asking a doctor who preserves life, to take it away.”

To Top