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Proposal is about control of suffering, not life or death

Liz Walker’s Oct. 19 op-ed, “Question 2 is deeply flawed,” raised numerous unfair accusations about the Death with Dignity Act. The act has numerous safeguards in place, and is about control of suffering, not about life or death.

Similar laws have been enacted in Oregon and Washington with an approval rating of more than 70 percent. Physicians in these states are not taking a more active role in the dying process. All physician participation is voluntary. In the laws of those two states, as in the Massachusetts act, it is the dying person who receives the prescription for drugs to hasten death.

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But the dying person cannot be clinically depressed; if he or she is found to be clinically depressed, the patient must be referred to counseling. Indeed, doctors must provide patients who make this end-of-life request with information available alternatives, including pain management and hospice care.

There is sometimes a point when medical intervention can do no more to improve the quality of life, when all options have been exhausted and someone is still suffering. That is when Massachusetts residents should be able to end their lives with peace and dignity, if they so choose.

Christine W. Hartmann


The writer, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at Boston University, is the author of “So Far Away: A Daughter’s Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love.”

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