About the Bill
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 ingest medication — should they choose — to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.
The bill is modeled after laws in authorized jurisdictions and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been in practice for 25 years without a single instance of abuse or coercion. It 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-ingest 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 oral and written request.
The written request must be witnessed by two people, one of whom cannot be a relative or someone who stands to benefit from the person’s estate.
Medication cannot be prescribed until mental capacity is confirmed by a licensed mental health specialist.
Prescribing providers must comply with medical-record documentation requirements and make records available to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Anyone attempting to coerce an eligible individual is subject to criminal penalties.
Life insurance payments cannot be denied to the families of those who use the law.
No physician, health provider or pharmacist is required to participate.
Unused medication must be disposed of by legal means.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is required to issue a publicly available annual report. Identifying information about individual patients and doctors is kept confidential.
The underlying illness — not medical aid in dying — will be listed as the cause of death on the death certificate.
Additional Information About the Bill:
Primary Bill Sponsors
- Senator Jo Comerford
- Representative James J. O’Day
- Representative Edward Philips
For More Information:
Regional Advocacy Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Action Network