End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedDeath with Dignity

Massachusetts Votes ‘No’ on ‘Death With Dignity’ Act

by Steve Annear
November 7, 2012

A measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide and allow sick patients to end their own lives didn’t garner the support of Bay State voters on Election Night. However, the votes were so close that proponents of the measure didn’t concede until the next morning.

In a statement Wednesday morning, supporters of ballot Question 2, known as the “Death With Dignity Act,” said regrettably, they “fell short.”

“For the past year, the people of Massachusetts participated in an open and honest conversation about allowing terminally-ill patients the choice to end their suffering,” the campaign said in a statement. “The Death with Dignity Act offered the terminally-ill the right to make that decision for themselves, but regrettably, we fell short. Our grassroots campaign was fueled by thousands of people from across this state, but outspent five to one by groups opposed to individual choice.”

The final results of the vote on Question 2 were announced Wednesday morning. The “Death With Dignity Act,” which aimed at allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication to a terminally ill patient to end their own life, lost 49% to 51%, according to election results.

In Massachusetts, 1,439,785 voters were against the proposal, while 1,382,651 supported the measure. In Boston, however, voters didn’t share the same sentiment as the rest of the Commonwealth. Hub voters favored the act, with 111,852 of those registered casting a “Yes” vote, compared to 107,377 who voted “No.” More

Patrick, Citing Personal Experience, Voted Yes on Death with Dignity

by Rachel Zimmerman
November 8, 2012

For the record, Gov. Deval Patrick said his decision to vote in favor of physician assisted suicide was motivated largely by his experience with his mother near the end of her life, The Associated Press reports.

The measure was defeated by a narrow margin here in Massachusetts. But as Carey noted in a recent post, much of the passion in favor of the measure came from people who had actually witnessed a loved one die under painful conditions with much suffering; these survivors yearned for a more graceful and dignified path to death for the ones they loved.

And indeed, the AP writes:

Gov. Deval Patrick says his decision to vote for a ballot question that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill was motivated largely by personal considerations.

Patrick told reporters Wednesday that he supported the question after his experience with his mother at the end of her life.

Patrick also pointed to the death of his grandmother some years earlier.

Patrick said he knew how important it was for his mother and grandmother to have some measure of control at the end of their lives, although he’s not sure they would have used the medication the question would have legalized.

Happy Endings: In Real Life, Mystery Writer Promotes Assisted Death

by Elihu Blotnick
Stanford Magazine
November 8, 2012

At 82, Merla Zellerbach has been reborn as a mystery writer. Her earlier novels paint psychological portraits. The Hallie Marsh Mystery Series, however, reflects the Bay Area author’s present concern: the injustices of death.

“I’m just getting started; I feel fit and fabulous. I can never lie about my age,” she says with a laugh. “I was born here, educated here and still see too many of my old school chums from Stanford.”

Zellerbach’s Marsh—the heroine of three novels so far—becomes an accidental detective after breast cancer changes the course of her life. Surrounded by medical expertise and malfeasance, she evolves novel by novel, as the mystery within begins to reflect the mystery without. Zellerbach, ’52, writes with wry wit and a breezy style. She sets her plots in the Bay Area and keeps the reader absorbed with recognizable character types and local color. More

Death With Dignity in Massachusetts

by Lauren Mackler
Huffington Post
October 23, 2012

Watching a loved one die without dignity is devastating. Sadly, both of my parents experienced prolonged, painful, and what I considered to be, unnecessarily inhumane deaths.

Twelve years ago I attempted to discuss end-of-life planning with my mother and father. Because I believe that death is simply a transition to another plane of existence, I tend to approach the topic in a rather direct and practical way, as was the case with my parents back in 2000. I suggested that they do end-of-life planning in advance, to ensure clarity about their wishes and to avoid any potential family conflict. But because neither of my parents were able to discuss or plan for death, at the end they were each kept alive by artificial means and suffered heart-wrenching deaths.

Following emergency surgery for a ruptured intestine, my 90-year-old father languished on a hospital respirator for more than a month. During this time, I happened upon a documentary on HBO called How to Die in Oregon. The film is about the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon and Washington, which allow mentally competent, terminally-ill adults to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death. How to Die in Oregon doesn’t tell people how they should die, but it shows how having more options for end-of-life care gives people more peace of mind in their final days.

I had always felt conflicted about physician-assisted suicide. But after watching the How to Die in Oregon documentary, I became convinced that Death with Dignity should be a legal option for any adult facing terminal illness. On November 6, 2012, the Death with Dignity Initiative (also known as Question 2) will appear on the general election ballot in my home state of Massachusetts. More

Physician-Assisted Death Is Illegal in Most States, so My Patient Made Another Choice

by David Muller
Health Affairs
October 23, 2012

Charles—Charlie, as I came to know him—greeted me at the door wearing only his boxer shorts and a full head of tousled white hair. Ninety-one-year-old folds of skin hung loosely from his lanky, bent, but powerful frame.

My first impression was of an aged Abraham Lincoln: strong and gangly, dignified despite the boxers, with a mischievous smile that I would later learn never left his face except when his pain overwhelmed him. He had the grip of a man half his age, and after shaking his hand I had to look to make sure all my fingers were still there.

I was seeing Charlie because he’d been referred to Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors, a home care program by physicians for homebound elderly patients in Manhattan. The first day I visited him, Charlie led me into his one-bedroom apartment, using the walls and the backs of chairs to make his way into the living room. Cluttered and lived in, it was an obstacle course of well-worn furniture and fraying rugs. No matter where you sat, bowls of Life Savers and foil-wrapped chocolate kisses were strategically within arm’s reach.

Over the years Charlie had gradually limited his usual daytime range to within ten feet of his sofa, whose sagging cushions welcomed the weight of his aching bones. He invited me to sit with him and, in his plainspoken, self-effacing manner, responded to my questions by telling me his life story. More