About the Bill
An Act Relative to End of Life Options is modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been in practice for 20 years without a single instance of abuse or coercion. The legislation allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and take medication — should they choose — to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.
Primary Bill Sponsors
- Senator Jo Comerford
- Representative James J. O’Day
This bill includes the following core safeguards:
- A terminal illness and six-month prognosis must be confirmed by two doctors. Individuals are not eligible for medical aid in dying because of age or disability.
- The attending physician must inform the requesting individual about all of their end-of-life care options, including hospice and pain or symptom management.
- A terminally ill person can withdraw their request for medication, not take the medication once they have it or otherwise change their mind at any point.
- The individual must be able to self-administer the medication.
The Act also includes the following regulatory and procedural requirements:
- The individual must make two separate requests for the medication, one oral and one written, with a 15-day waiting period between the first and second request.
- The written request must be witnessed by two people, one of whom can’t be a relative or someone who stands to benefit from the person’s estate.
- Medication can’t be prescribed until mental capacity is confirmed by a licensed mental health specialist.
- Prescribing doctors must comply with medical-record documentation requirements and make records available to the state department of health.
- Providers who participate and comply with all aspects of the law are given civil and criminal immunity.
- Anyone attempting to coerce a patient is subject to criminal penalties.
- Life insurance payments can’t be denied to the families of those who use the law.
- No physician, health provider or pharmacist is required to participate.
In March, both bills were referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health.
In December 2019, a Massachusetts court dismissed all but one count in a lawsuit brought by Compassion & Choices on behalf of two Massachusetts physicians asserting the state constitution and existing state law allow medical aid in dying for mentally capable, terminally ill adults. Compassion & Choices is working toward appealing the ruling.
On January 5, 2021, lawmakers adjourned the 2019/2020 legislative session without taking further action on the End of Life Options Act.
The 2019/2020 bill had 69 combined sponsors. Visit the links below for the complete lists.
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony on the End of Life Options Act on June 25, 2019. The bill was advanced by the committee following a May 2020 vote.
On January 8, 2019, medical aid-in-dying legislation (H.1926) was introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature by Representative Louis L. Kafka. A companion bill (S.1208) was introduced in the Senate by Senator William Brownsberger on January 14, 2019. The bills had a combined total of 63 cosponsors.
On September 26, 2017, the Massachusetts JPH held a hearing for the End of Life Options Act introduced by Rep. Lou Kafka (H1194) and Sen. Barbara L’Italien (S1225), and cosponsored by 46 legislators. We had 175 supporters turn out, and many testified including doctors, faith leaders, social workers, legislators and people with personal stories. The JPH Committee did not move the bill forward.
On October 26, 2016, Compassion & Choices filed suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of two medical doctors asserting that current state law allows physicians to offer terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option of medical aid in dying.
The Massachusetts Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act (H 1991) was heard by the Joint Public Health Committee in October 2015. Compassion & Choices secured 39 cosponsors for the bill, filled two hearing rooms with supporters and heard more than 30 supportive testimonies. The bill was recommended for further review in Summer 2016, essentially preventing the bill from advancing that legislative session.
Compassion & Choices stepped up our volunteer efforts in Massachusetts in the 2013 – 2014 legislative session. We hosted a strong lobby day at the State House in Feb 2014, visiting 30 state representatives and senators, including many of our key swing legislators on the Public Health Committee, and delivered 7,000 petition signatures in support of aid in dying. The supporters in attendance represented a variety of professional backgrounds including physicians, social workers, former state legislators and constituents with personal stories.
The bill was recommended for further review, essentially preventing it from advancing in that session.
Compassion & Choices has been on the ground working in Massachusetts beginning with a citizen-led ballot initiative in 2012. Although polls were indicating 64 percent support, this initiative was narrowly defeated (51% to 49%) by a last-minute influx of out-of-state campaign funds directed at massive media scare tactics and criticisms of the proposed legislation not being protective enough and allowing manipulation of the system.