Latest News:

Massachusetts Committee Hears Hours of Emotional Testimony on the End of Life Options Act

June 26, 2019

Advocates, physicians, social workers, faith leaders, patients with terminal illness, and their loved ones packed the Gardner Auditorium at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 for the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health hearing on the End of Life Options Act. One by one, those present provided emotional testimony on the bill, articulating how their personal and professional experiences with death and dying informed their views on the bill.

The scene at the Gardner Auditorium as dozens of citizens arrived to provide testimony on the End of Life Options Act to the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Below is a sampling of spoken and submitted written testimony from yesterday’s hearing, including from Death with Dignity’s Peter Korchnak, who spoke about the Oregon experience with aid in dying.

*

Legislators

Bill sponsor Louis Kafka (D-Staughton) has been working to advance aid-in-dying legislation since early 2009.

Massachusetts State Representative Michael Soter (R-Worcester) shared how the painful experience of caring for his dying father opened his eyes to the peace death with dignity can bring to families:

Patients and Loved Ones

Amanda Baudanza advocates for death with dignity in honor of her husband, T.J., who died of colon cancer.

2019 Massachusetts hearing

Amanda Baudanza giving testimony at the June 25 Committee hearing on the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act.

*

Anne Mackin shared written testimony about her mother’s painful decline and eventual agonizing death from a rare form of ALS:

“My stoic mother eventually became bedridden, then unable to eat, then unable to talk, to say what she wanted, or to move. [She] spent her last weekend dying in agony. I ask you to spare yourselves, your loved ones, and all of us from a death like this.”

*

*

Faith Leaders

Faith leaders made a strong showing at the hearing and submitted substantial written testimony as well.

*

From written testimony submitted by Father Daniel Binney Montgomery, a 95-year-old retired Eastern Orthodox Church priest:

“I am not advocating suicide. I am defending the right of individuals who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and who now face a fearful death full of pain, to opt, if they so choose, for release from that pain.

“I do not make this plea lightly. I have devoted most of my adult life to prayer, to the priesthood, and to the many congregations that I served. I believe to the core of my being in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. As a Christian and as a priest, I ask that you give me the right to live and die by my deepest conviction—that life does not end at death.”

For those of us who believe in the afterlife, to be allowed to choose death and release from unnecessary suffering is in itself a statement of faith in God’s mercy and in eternal life.

Father Daniel Binney Montgomery, Sutton, MA

*

*

From retired college professor, devout Christian, and Father Montgomery’s daughter, Sylvia Montgomery Shaw of Sutton, Massachusetts:

“I realize that some Christians object to the bill on religious grounds. Yet it is precisely on religious and secular grounds that I appeal to you. Rather than trying to avoid death at all costs in all situations, should we not demonstrate more faith in God’s promise of life after death? When we witness the agony of terminally ill patients who beg for their suffering to end, could we not follow Christ’s injunction that ‘we do unto others as we would have them do unto us’?

“If other interpretations of Christianity or a different set of assumptions about the afterlife oppose my interpretation and deny me, by law, the right to live and die according to my most deeply held conviction, am I not being denied true religious freedom? Doesn’t our constitution guarantee religious freedom for all?

“On both religious and secular grounds, I beg you to support this bill.”

Physicians

Massachusetts physicians also showed up in force to provide supportive testimony.

Advocates

Our grassroots partner in Massachusetts, John Berkowitz, read testimony from a supportive physician.

Read more about our work with John and Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity here.

Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity with Peter Korchnak

Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity’s John Berkowitz (right) and Randee Laikind with Peter Korchnak

Death with Dignity’s Peter Korchnak shared with the committee insights gleaned from more than two decades of flawless implementation in Oregon and elsewhere.

“Today you’ll hear a lot of allegations from opponents about what this bill does,” Korchnak told the committee. “In more than forty years of combined experience in the states with laws like the End of Life Options Act before you, not a single one of these claims has ever come to pass or been independently verified.”

In the end, he added, “death with dignity laws are all about autonomy, offering a small number of adults who are terminally ill an additional voluntary medical option to control the timing and manner of their death. Enacting [the End of Life Options Act] would provide one more option for Massachusetts residents at the end of their life.”

No comments.

Leave a Comment:

Afterword: Physician-Assisted Dying Concepts

In Emotional Hearing, Massachsuetts Legislators Consider the End of Life Option Act

Advocates, physicians, social workers, faith leaders, patients with terminal illness, and their loved ones packed the Gardner Auditorium at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 25 for the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health hearing on the End of Life Options Act. Here is a sampling of spoken and submitted written testimony from yesterday's hearing, including from Death with Dignity's Peter Korchnak, who spoke about the Oregon experience with aid in dying.