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Here’s what readers thought about physician-assisted dying


“I am 84 years old and I have no desire, to put it bluntly, to be tortured to death. I have seen loved ones die, old people. “

Erin Clark / Globe Staff, file
  • State bill to allow physician-assisted dying divides many patients, doctors

  • Massachusetts Medical Society no longer opposes physician-assisted suicide

When it comes to whether the state should allow physician-assisted dying, the results of a sample of our readers weren’t even close.

Of just over 250 people who responded to the survey, 227, or 92 percent, said they were in favor of the measure while only 15, or 6 percent were against. Four other respondents chose “other”, representing 2% of the vote.

The state is currently considering a bill that would allow medical assistance in dying in very specific circumstances, particularly for terminally ill people with only six months or less to live. The patient must also complete a 15-day waiting period and have their request approved by a mental health care provider.

Physician-assisted dying laws have already been passed in neighboring states, including Vermont and Maine; the first was in Oregon in the mid-1990s.

There are strong opinions on both sides. Those in the pro camp say the laws of other states have worked perfectly. Michael Martinetti, who lives in Lexington and suffers from a rare neuromuscular disease, says he wants “autonomy” to make his decision.

Those in the counter camp say there should be better care for people at the end of their lives and that the new law would “essentially decriminalize” doctors helping patients end their lives.

“We have made a lot of progress in recent years in increasing communication about end-of-life preferences,” Dr. Laura Petrillo, palliative care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said at a press conference. “There is much more that can be done to ensure that people have access to high quality medical care, but most importantly end-of-life care, and resources to have care aligned with their end-of-life goals. life.

For medical assistance in dying

For some readers, their desire to see the bill passed comes after watching loved ones suffer immense pain at the end of their lives with a terminal diagnosis.

“Neither the state nor any religion should have a say,” said Mark of Easthampton, explaining why he voted “yes” for physician-assisted dying. “My mother WANTED to die because she had no quality. She loved to read and she was going blind, she loved golf and she couldn’t play anymore, she was attached to [oxygen] 24/7 and became incontinent.

As a retired psychologist, Mark said he knew his mother was not depressed. She would have met the criteria for physician-assisted dying, he said.

“It would have met the criteria of the current bill,” he said. “Instead, she suffered a cruel death from lack of oxygen, panting for 5 days. No one should have to go through this. It was torture to watch.

Another reader said he saw others die painfully.

“I am 84 years old and I have no desire, to put it bluntly, to be tortured to death,” David Ball wrote. “I have seen loved ones die, old people.

Another said he believed life decisions were human rights.

“Others should not have a say in life and death,” wrote Jean Williams of Wakefield, Rhode Island. “You may believe in your right to die, or not want to make that choice, based on your own religious beliefs, without requiring others to conform to their personal beliefs.”

Here’s what other readers have said:

“Bodily autonomy should exist from birth until and including death when it has no direct impact on others. Circumcision, birth control, birth plans, DNR, end of life guidelines – these are all part of each individual’s control over their respective lives. Others’ discomfort with someone else’s autonomy should not interfere with someone’s ability to make their own life choices. – Elisabeth, Concorde

“Ask anyone how they hope to die, they’ll say after [a long] life and sleep. This bill helps people who will never have that chance to have some semblance of control over their last moments. – Jessica reading

“It gives the patient a dignified way to die, instead of living in pain or a degenerative lifestyle that needs machines to keep you alive.” – Not identified

Against medical assistance in dying

In the camp against, a reader said he didn’t think doctors should be involved in the death.

“Physicians should not be part of a process that actively promotes death,” wrote Robin, of North Vassalboro, Maine.

Another reader cited religion.

“I am totally against the proposal because it is up to our Creator alone to take our life when and how he wants,” wrote Mary of Holyoke.

A nurse reader pushed for better end-of-life care.

“We need better hospice, hospice, and health care providers who are educated and comfortable talking about the goals of care,” said Aaron Langlois of Pennsylvania.

One reader said he believed in physician-assisted dying in specific circumstances.

“Patients who have open heart surgery often feel like they are committing suicide while recovering for up to a year. After that, the urge goes. Proceed carefully… ”wrote an unidentified reader from Massachusetts.

Another reader, a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry and mental health, said they were not sure.

“I am a CNS psychiatrist and am against suicide, but I also don’t want to prolong the suffering if someone is terminally ill,” wrote the unidentified reader from Massachusetts.