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Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Martignetti

“I represent the two out of three people living with disabilities in Massachusetts who are in favor of death with dignity,” says Michael Martignetti of Lexington, who has been helping C&C by testifying at hearings and doing community outreach since preparations for his state’s 2012 referendum. Michael, whose mobility is increasingly limited by Friedreich’s ataxia since its onset when he was 33, sees his perspective on medical aid in dying as especially important “because the minority of people with disabilities who don’t want it are extremely vocal.”

Besides working as an investor, Michael makes time to volunteer for other causes and organizations in addition to C&C, including a support group for Friedreich’s — which his younger brother, Joe, also has — and other ataxias that he co-founded in Boston. It was at a national meeting for this group, attended by over 500 people, that Michael became passionate about end-of-life issues. “I could still walk, but I really saw the devastation of ataxias. Pretty much you lose everything. We usually die from cardiomyopathy, which is thickening of the heart, or swallowing deaths – choking. I realized I don’t want to go that way. I want to go with a bottle of tequila and guns blaring, like Jimmy Cagney or Scarface!”  Another motivator was Michael’s older brother and best friend, Anthony, who struggled with leukemia for four years before passing two summers ago. “He begged me for medication to end his suffering,” recalls Michael. “It was terrible. He suffered like an animal.”

Michael feels encouraged in his advocacy knowing that because of it, eventually Massachusetts will enact a medical aid in dying law, and residents of his state — maybe even him — will be able to die peacefully with all their loved ones around. “You can plan around it: fly people in, make a good meal, drink some booze and say goodbye!”