Massachusetts

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Dignity 2012, a coalition of concerned citizens supporting the proposed Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act, is leading the way to bring state-monitored physician-hastened dying for terminally ill adult residents.

These blog posts are about Dignity 2012's hard work.

So You Want to Pass a Death with Dignity Law in Your State

The number one constituent question we get at the National Center is, "what do I need to do to pass a Death with Dignity law in my state?" The answer is never easy because enacting a Death with Dignity law through the legislative process or ballot initiative is a complex, time-intensive, and expensive endeavor.

In a legislative environment, lawmakers are afraid of legislation focused on death even though repeated polls show a majority of Americans support Death with Dignity laws. Ballot initiatives are costly and time-consuming, requiring years of background work and the engagement of expensive professional political advisors nearly every step of the way.

The unfortunate reality is, while there's a lot of activity and momentum in the New England region, not every state is ready to move forward immediately with Death with Dignity policy reform.

There are, however, lots of things you can do in your own state to jumpstart momentum and engage others in your request to push for reform, and I'm writing a five-part blog post about different ways to begin the process of legislative engagement in your state. Today's post is focused on identifying allies because one thing is certain: you cannot do this alone.

Read more: So You Want to Pass a Death with Dignity Law in Your State

Momentum from Coast to Coast

"In all likelihood, with all the momentum built during the Vermont and Massachusetts efforts, the next states to achieve Death with Dignity policy reform will be in the movement's current center of activity—New England."

- Peg Sandeen, Executive Director
Death with Dignity National Center
American Society on Aging's publication Aging Today.

Peg's article in the November/December issue of Aging Today (and published online in January) offered a look at where the debate over end-of-life healthcare policy reform is heating up: the Northeast. Much of this is tied to the increased awareness and understanding of Death with Dignity laws resulting from the recent near victory in Massachusetts and last year's historic achievement in Vermont.

Legislative sessions are back in full swing in most states, and already Death with Dignity bills are being proposed anew or carried over if they were still active. I track these bills throughout the year, and you can stay up-to-date by visiting our legislative tracking page.

Some highlights:

Read more: Momentum from Coast to Coast

Help Us Prepare for 2014

Penny Shelfer

I can't believe how quickly this year's flown by. Thankfully, there's still time to make your donation and get your 2013 tax deduction!

Your gift will make it possible for us to continue working with advocates like Penny in Texas. A few years back, Penny learned she had stage III breast cancer, and like many who face a grave cancer diagnosis, the first word that came to mind was Death. Prolonged and pain filled.

The fear she faced led her to research different end-of-life options and the Death with Dignity laws we promote. Knowing our organization is there to help gave her comfort and peace of mind.

The national conversation about Death with Dignity is growing and changing at a faster pace than ever, and we look forward to building our local partnerships with advocates like Penny.

Your year-end, tax-deductible donation today will get us ready for the challenges ahead. Thank you.

Read more: Help Us Prepare for 2014

Death with Dignity Supporters Have Stories to Tell

Everyday, I chat with people who want to help us advocate for the Death with Dignity laws we promote. Supporters come to us from all different groups and all 50 states, and they're some of the most dedicated you'll find. The reason people feel so strongly about these laws is usually because of a personal experience—either through facing a serious illness like Penny has or because they were bedside when a loved one died.

Unfortunately, most who've found us after witnessing a death did so because the dying person suffered terribly and pleaded for assistance in dying. This was the case for our newest board member, George Eighmey and long-time supporter Dee, who's committed to our long-term stability and has included us in her will.

Read more: Death with Dignity Supporters Have Stories to Tell

Death with Dignity Improves Hospice Awareness

Walking a labyrinth as part of hospice care

After an event to celebrate and remember people who've died at JHC Hospice in Worcester, Rev. John G. Pastor, reflected on changes he's seen in Massachusetts hospice care since the narrow defeat of the proposed Death with Dignity initiative in 2012. In an interview with The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, he remarked the most notable change has been more and more people are talking about hospice in a positive light:

It's good to have increased conversations, and even debates, about honoring wishes at end of life. Even though [the initiative] failed, it brought to light and affirmed our work in so many ways. There is really an awareness.

Others at the hospice event, including some who opposed the bill, also acknowledged the Death with Dignity initiative broadened the public discussion about hospice care. JHC Hospice Director Ann Marie LeBoeuf noted, "In our society, people are not comfortable talking about death. It is dark. But now that it was a public issue, people do speak of it and talk about what they want."

Read more: Death with Dignity Improves Hospice Awareness

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Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

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