Metro

Lawmakers to consider doctor-assisted-suicide bill

The controversial issue of medical aid in dying will be the subject of a Public Health Committee hearing later this month as activists pursue additional end-of-life options through both the Legislature and the courts.

The Joint Committee on Public Health announced Wednesday that its hearing on Sept. 26 will be devoted to the issue, with only one piece of legislation on the agenda for that day, a bill filed by Representative Louis Kafka and Senator Barbara L’Italien.

It appears the committee is expecting the hearing will attract many observers because the committee has scheduled its hearing for two adjacent hearing rooms.

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The Kafka-L’Italien bill seeks to allow a patient with a terminal disease whose prognosis to live is six months or less to request that their doctor write a prescription for a life-ending medication, after having met certain criteria.

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Kafka filed similar legislation in each of the last four sessions, but his bills never got out of committee. Earlier this year, Kafka said his bills have picked up support each session.

“So I’m hoping, anyway, that this next session we may be able to move it beyond just the committee level,” he said.

The group Compassion & Choices Massachusetts has filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court, asking the Massachusetts courts to affirm the right to medical aid in dying, sometimes known as death with dignity or doctor-assisted suicide.

Massachusetts voters rejected a 2012 ballot question similar to the bill filed by Kafka, with 51 percent opposed and 49 percent in favor, a margin of 67,891 votes.