Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit working to expand end-of-life care and choice, today applauded the intent of a Massachusetts measure to legalize physician aid in dying, but expressed doubts that the Legislature will vote to support patients’ rights to make their own end-of-life decisions. “Too many Americans suffer needlessly and endure unrelenting pain,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices. “This measure contains good, proven public policy that is now the law in Oregon, Washington and Montana. It’s unfortunate that so many politicians fail to serve the people who want and need this choice.” Not all citizens have the opportunity to vote directly on Death with Dignity proposals, like those in Washington State, which passed it by a large margin.
Oregon’s 11-year experience teaches that end-of-life choice has benefited not only the patients who used the law, but all Oregonians facing the end of life. All dying patients in the state benefited from improved care from physicians and health care providers, increased use of medical morphine, increased referrals to hospice, the lowest rates of in-hospital deaths and the greatest opportunity to die at home among loved ones in the nation.
National surveys over twenty years have shown a large majority of Americans support making physician aid in dying a legal choice. “Americans want choices in all aspects of their lives. The right to choose how we die echoes the right to choose how we live,” said Coombs Lee. “Because such an overwhelming majority holds this view, one day everyone will know the comfort of choice and control. It is time for federal and state governments to honor the will of the people and legalize aid in dying.”
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