The Conversation Continues: Update on Death with Dignity Legislation (MA)

The Conversation Continues: Update on Death with Dignity Legislation (MA)

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The importance of conversation with loved ones surrounding one’s end of life choices for healthcare in the face of terminal illness and suffering has been highlighted by the COVID- 19 pandemic. People of all ages and states of health need to consider who will speak for them in the event they are unable to speak for themselves in a health care crisis. Advance Healthcare Directives are critically important along with the conversations to enable your loved ones to make informed decisions for your care in accordance with your wishes. Decisions such as when, or if, to use life support or artificial nutrition to support life are very personal. Without honest conversation about your values and beliefs related to death and dying it can be an agonizing process. Terminal illness, pain and suffering lead some to consider medical aid in dying when their burden becomes too great.

In February I wrote to you about The End of Life Options Act, also known as the Death with Dignity bill, coming before the Massachusetts Legislature (read the article here). If passed, it would make Massachusetts the 10th state (Maine, Vermont, New Jersey and others) plus Washington DC, to legalize the option of medical, compassionate aid in dying for citizens who are terminally ill, mentally capable, and facing extreme pain and unrelieved suffering at the end of life. On May 29, 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it was passed by the Legislature’s Public Health Committee. Next, it must be passed by the Joint Committee on HealthCare Financing by July 31. The organization Western Massachusetts Death With Dignity hopes it can be brought to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote and final passage in the fall.

Supporting legislation such as this requires reflection on our beliefs and values on the topic of death with dignity, with our spiritual and religious values guiding our decisions. We can find thoughtful discussion from UCC: Faithfully Facing Dying and the General Synod 26 (2007) resolution LEGALIZATION OF PHYSICIAN AID IN DYING 1 (Resolution of Witness) which proclaims “from the beginning of our lives to life everlasting, God leads us, sustains us, and is always with us" - Psalm 139: 7-12.

If you would like more information about this important issue, either pro or con, go to the websites of Death with Dignity National Center, Compassion and Choices, or Second Thoughts on Assisted Suicide.

Western Massachusetts Death With Dignity requests:
If you agree
that Massachusetts should become the 10th state (Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, etc.) plus Washington DC to legalize the option of Death with Dignity (a.k.a. medical, compassionate aid in dying) for citizens who are terminally ill, mentally capable, and facing great pain and suffering at the end of life, Western Mass. Death with Dignity has asked us to let you know that you can help by:

Contacting the Co-Chairs of the Legislature's Joint Committee on HealthCare Financing, where the bill was referred after passage by the Joint Committee on Public Health on May 29th. Urge them to pass the bill by July 31st. Sen. Cindy Friedman 617-722-1432, cindy.friedman@masenate.gov; Rep. Daniel Cullinane 617-722-2430, daniel.cullinane@mahouse.gov.

Contacting your own legislators, and let them know that:
  • you're glad the Public Health Committee passed The End of Life Options Act (thank them if they happen to be on that Committee);
  • you urge them to support its passage by the Joint Committee on HealthCare Financing by July 8, and then the full House and Senate, before July 31;
  • you also appreciate and support all they're doing to provide much-needed medical and economic support to our communities from the Covid19 crisis.
More info: Western Mass. Death with Dignity (a statewide organization):
413-586-4056
westernmassdeathwithdignity@gmail.com
www.westernmassachusettsdeathwithdignity.org
 

Author

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Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen is Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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