By Adam D. Schmaelzle, Esq.
In 1999, two years after Oregon passed their “Death with Dignity Act”, Jack Kevorkian was charged and convicted of second-degre
e murder in Michigan after administering a lethal injection to Thomas Youk, who was suffering in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease. His conviction sparked a nationwide debate, which likely played a role in the decision to pass similar laws in three other states, Washington, Vermont, and New Mexico.
Had he not passed away in 2011, I would imagine Jack Kevorkian would have stood along-side the many proponents of the “Death with Dignity Act”, as the controversial topic resurfaced around Brittany Maynard in recent months. For those who are unaware, Brittany Maynard launched a campaign last month on the website www.Compassionandchoices.org, and a YouTube video (which has over 11 million views) for the purpose of gaining support to influence other states to follow in Oregon’s footsteps. This past June, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon to utilize the Death With Dignity Act after she was diagnosed with a stage 4 Glioblastoma, and on Saturday November 1st Brittany Maynard saw her plan through. (See link).
The response from the public was what was to be expected. Highly debated with strong support and opposition from both sides. The media spun into the usual frenzy that follows any hot topic, and the people responded on the Internet as they usually do. But the question still remains…..did it work?
According to a poll by Purple Strategies, support for death with dignity in Massachusetts has grown to over 70%. (See link). In 2012, 51% of Massachusetts voted against the idea of assisted suicide, and a “death with dignity” ballot was rejected. Since that time, there has been a 10-point increase of supporters in this state. (See link).
On March 18, 2014, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health heard the proposition of a bill, which was modeled similarly to Oregon’s death with dignity act. Hundreds of supports of the bill attended the hearing, and nearly 7,000 voters signed a petition to support the same. (See link). The result was a recommendation to further study the bill, which you can read in the link below. (See link). According to Marie Manis, the Massachusetts State campaign manager for Compassionandchoices.org, the bill is expected to advance again in 2015.
In recent months, other neighboring states have also proposed similar bills to its legislation.
Supporters in Connecticut attended a public hearing on March 17, for the second time in two years to consider a bill also similar to the Death with Dignity act in Oregon, but with some very notable differences. (See link).
Their efforts were unsuccessful as opponents of the bill rigorously expressed their concerns for coercion and abuse that could result from passing an act that allows some form of assisted suicide.
The possibility of a death with dignity-type bill passing in Massachusetts surely exists, but as proponents of the bill continue to raise their voices in response to the death and efforts of Brittany Maynard, those who oppose the bill are getting just as loud.
If you have any questions, or feel as though I have made a mistake, please feel free to contact me at 774-314-9124
1. The Brittany Maynard YouTube video
2. 70% of Mass. voters want more end of life choices
3. Article on March 18th hearing
4. MA Bill
5. Article on Connecticut March 17th hearing