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THE ARGUMENT

Should the state Legislature pass the End of Life Options Act allowing terminally ill patients to die in their sleep?

Read two views, then vote in our poll below.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

YES

Bev Baccelli

Mattapoisett, 74, living with cancer

Bev Baccelli

How I die, like how I live, should be my decision.

As a person living with multiple myeloma, a life-limiting blood cancer, I’ve been forced to think about my death. I don’t want to suffer from infection after infection that wears my body down, die with back, rib, or jaw pain as cancer invades my bones, or leave my wife with the memory of me begging her for help she can’t give and the guilt that comes with that.

I want to lay in my wife’s arms and drift off to sleep peacefully when I decide that my suffering has become unbearable. When there is nothing more that my incredible medical team can offer me other than hospice, I want to live each moment with those I love, not worrying about my death.

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Terminally ill people with six months or less to live now have this choice in 10 other states, including our neighbors in Maine and Vermont. What is being proposed here in Massachusetts is the strictest medical-aid-in-dying legislation in the country, requiring two doctors and a mental health professional to verify a patient’s eligibility before a prescription can be written.

A recent Beacon Research poll shows that nearly 75 percent of Massachusetts voters polled want this option. After learning about the bill’s safeguards, support increases to nearly 80 percent, including among Catholics and people with disabilities.

In the states that have implemented medical-aid-in-dying laws — starting with Oregon in 1997 — there hasn’t been a single substantiated case of abuse or coercion, as confirmed by the Journal of Medical Ethics and Disability Rights Oregon.

I want to live, to continue walking on the beach with my wife, to keep riding my bike, and to continue volunteering. I want to keep living my life my way. I am living with cancer, and when treatment stops working, I want the option to die peacefully free from pain, when my suffering becomes unbearable. I want to die like I live . . . my way.

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We need to pass medical-aid-in-dying legislation in Massachusetts so terminally ill adults can decide how they want to die, just as they decide how to live.


NO

James F. Driscoll Esq.

Massachusetts Catholic Conference executive director

James F. Driscoll

The Massachusetts Legislature should not support the End of Life Options Act (S. 1331).

While it is widely known the Catholic Church strongly opposes physician-assisted suicide and teaches life itself is a gift from God and must not be intentionally shortened, the focus of this response will address some — but not all — of the flaws presented by Senate Bill 1331, along with the views of two prominent national health care organizations.

A diagnosis of death within six months is often wrong.

There are numerous examples of individuals across the country who have outlived that diagnosis. Many have lived for many years. They get to share the comfort, love, and companionship of family and friends that otherwise may have never happened if physician-assisted suicide were legal. These individuals or their family members testify year after year before the Massachusetts Legislature about their personal journey and implore legislators to refrain from legalizing the practice.

The bill lacks sufficient safeguards to protect the most vulnerable.

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Individuals who are ill are often at the most vulnerable stage of their lives. In short, an individual who is physically disabled, depressed, or fears being a “burden” to the family, may be subject to undue influence or coercion by others to consume the deadly drug mixture. This is particularly troubling if there are financial benefits to be gained as a result.

In June of 2021, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization stated in part, “In light of the underuse of hospice and palliative care to alleviate suffering, lack of comprehensive health care with persons with serious illness . . . concerns of disability rights advocates regarding protections from coercion, longstanding racial bias in medicine, disparities in health and medical care, and lack of protections to ensure voluntary participation, NHPCO opposes legally accelerated death.”

In January of 2023, the Alzheimer’s Association severed its ties with Compassion & Choices — the chief proponents of physician-assisted suicide — stating, “Their values are inconsistent with those of the Association. We deeply regret our mistake, have begun the termination of the relationship, and apologize to all the families we support.”

Legislators should focus on providing quality palliative care to the sick and dying, particularly in underserved, poor, and minority communities.

As told to Globe correspondent Linda Greenstein. To suggest a topic, please contact greensteinlm@gmail.com.