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Massachusetts Debates Medical Aid in Dying

“Each of us should have the option of deciding how our final days will be.”- Dan Diaz

Just a few weeks after the anniversary of Brittany Maynard’s first video, Dan Diaz testified at a public hearing  before the Joint Public Health Committee in Massachusetts in support of a death-with-dignity law. Dan drew on the difficulties he and Brittany faced after her terminal diagnosis to make a powerful, compelling argument in favor of expanding end-of-life choices. As medical aid-in-dying laws move forward in more than 26 states.  Compassion & Choices sees Massachusetts as one of our best chances to pass a death-with-dignity law in 2016.

H1991 ‘An Act affirming a terminally ill patient’s right to compassionate aid in dying’  would allow mentally competent terminally ill adults diagnosed with six months or less to live to end their lives peacefully, surrounded by their loved-ones. Death-with-dignity supporters from across the state, and across the country, showed up to support the bill.

H1991 was introduced again this year by State Rep. Louis Kafka, who became a champion of the legislation after being inspired by a terminally-ill constituent named Al Lipkin. Rep. Kafka and three of the bill co-sponsors; Reps. Lori Ehrlich, Timothy Madden and Cory Atkins  testified in favor of the bill at the hearing. 

The two State House hearing rooms were packed to the brim for this important hearing. We had an impressive turnout, about 200 supporters with a 75-25 ratio of DWD supporters to opponents. The recent victory in California seemed to bring the opposition out in larger numbers, which we expected. We heard supportive testimony from legislators, medical doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, faith leaders, supporters with personal stories and those who have seen their loved ones die painful deaths. Compassion & Choices came to the hearing prepared with a strong network of grassroots supporters, volunteers, and facts.

Opponents came armed with misleading talking points; one opponent’s testimony even cited the movie The Martian in order to make an argument against death with dignity. We’re confident that these scare tactics won’t work in the end, and we need to continue truth-telling so legislators understand that death with dignity is about providing a widely recognized option to terminally ill, mentally competent adults, and not anything else.