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Beyond the fantasy of a gentle death

Members of the Massachusetts Medical Society, meeting in Waltham in December 2017, lined up to debate a resolve that would allow them to become neutral on the subject of medical aid in dying.Jessica Rinaldi

People should not be forced to suffer in their last days

Re “ ‘Jane Eyre’ and the death fantasy” (Ideas, Aug. 22): Enough people have witnessed bad deaths to start a movement. Compassion and Choices is a national organization to help those with cancer and any number of neurological challenges, such as my own, Parkinson’s disease, to regain control of their own lives and deaths. It’s not depression but, rather, pain that drives people who have treasured life to not want to suffer in their last days.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters rejected a ballot question that would have made it possible to seek medical aid in dying. The state Legislature should act to pass a “death with dignity” measure. At least 10 jurisdictions, including Maine and Vermont, have done this.


People may just want the knowledge that they can end pain and suffering when it becomes unbearable. Now a person in Massachusetts is constrained to choosing only to starve to death, prolonging pain and suffering for days.

In her Ideas essay, Tara Bandman showed how the Victorian idea of death was fantasy, not reality. When we are kinder to our pets than to people, change is needed. Choice is a bedrock of our American way of life. Terminally ill people need to have the choice of whether they wish to endure suffering.

Paula Bacon

South Dennis

Her father’s words: ‘I don’t fear death, but I do fear the process of dying’

I was moved by Tara Bandman’s wonderful essay, “ ‘Jane Eyre’ and the death fantasy.” My wise physician father told me, “I don’t fear death, but I do fear the process of dying.” He knew that the fantasy of a peaceful death was often not a possibility. Deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as in the case of Bandman’s mother, or end-stage heart disease, as in my father’s, can be eased, but not made free of suffering, by hospice and morphine.


Many states have legalized medical aid in dying. I hope that we in Massachusetts will have the option available to us before I reach the point where I have no hope of recovery and my quality of life is not good enough for me to wish for another day.

Right now I would do almost anything for another day, but I want a choice if the time should come when continued life has nothing to offer me but further suffering.

Molly DeHaas Walsh