It is true, and unconscionable, that “Too many people suffer needlessly during their final days” in the Commonwealth (”As the finish line nears, a few tasks remain for Beacon Hill,” Opinion, July 29). However, the idea that “Allowing people suffering from terminal illness to end their lives on their own terms would be a humane reform” is dangerously simplistic. Since the Legislature has once again failed to pass the “End of Life Options Act,” it is time for a significantly revised and improved bill in the next legislative session. That bill must include provisions that ensure reliable access, with adequate insurance coverage, to all the end of life options people in the Commonwealth need and deserve during their final days. These must include not only excellent palliative care, but also other community-based supportive services. With these, many people whose physical, emotional, or other suffering is currently too often unbearable may prefer to continue living. When those services are reliably available, the small number of people in their final days who would still prefer to end their lives should have that option. Until those those services are assured, thinking that the crucial issue is enabling people who are suffering to end their lives is utterly irresponsible.
Dr. Lachlan Forrow
The writer is a senior fellow at Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, and past chair of the Massachusetts Expert Panel on End of Life Care.
Dr. Joanne Lynn
The writer is a clinical professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the George Washington University.