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.

Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

This spring and summer, I embarked on a journey to author a five-part blog post series about how to build momentum to advocate for Death with Dignity policy reform in your state. During the initial post, I talked about how to engage with your family and friends in conversations about hastened dying; in the second, I provided guidance about steps needed to learn more about the issue and build alliances. In the third post, I discussed the ABCs of ballot initiative and legislative campaigns.

In this blog post, the fourth in the series, I will talk about building organizational infrastructure and coalitions.

Read more: Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

The Basics of Ballot Initiatives and Legislative Advocacy

Know How Laws Are Made and Who Controls What Decisions

This is the third in a series of posts focused on steps you can take to pave the way for Death with Dignity policy reform in your state. During the first, I provided guidance on how to talk to your friends, family members, and colleagues about the issue; in the second, I offered an overview about learning the issue and engaging allies.

If you've progressed this far, you know a lot more about the issue than you did when you first started, you have heard intimate life and death stories from your friends and colleagues, and you have identified a small, but dedicated, group of supporters who are ready to jump into this process with you.

At its core, policy reform is about organizing and political work. This third blog post is focused on the technicalities of ballot initiative work and the legislature.

Read more: The Basics of Ballot Initiatives and Legislative Advocacy

Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

The Organizing Cycle care of COPA

Three states have laws permitting Death with Dignity: Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Two have positive court decisions determining physicians cannot be prosecuted for prescribing medications to hasten death under certain narrow circumstances: Montana and New Mexico (under appeal). But if you live in another state and you want to help enact a Death with Dignity law, what steps can you take? This is the second in a series of five blog posts about early organizing efforts you can undertake to help pave the way for passing a law in your state.

In the first, I focused on the important first step of talking to your friends, neighbors, and family members about Death with Dignity and end-of-life care policy reform.

One of the interesting things about talking to your colleagues with intent about death and dying issues is you will find strong support in areas you did not even know existed. One political organizer told me she thought our supporters were as dedicated as the most dedicated volunteers in politics (teachers and firefighters are the most dedicated, in case you're curious).

Read more: Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

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

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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, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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