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Massachusetts May Soon Change How the Nation Dies

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the i-bet-it-involves-the-red-sox dept.

Medicine 439

Hugh Pickens writes "Lewis M. Cohen reports that this Election Day, Massachusetts is poised to approve the Death With Dignity Act, a modernized, sanitized, politically palatable term that replaces the now-antiquated expression 'physician-assisted suicide.' Oregon's Death With Dignity Act has been in effect for the past 14 years, and the state of Washington followed suit with a similar law in 2008. But the Massachusetts ballot question has the potential to turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm, because the state is the home of America's leading medical publication (the New England Journal of Medicine), hospital (Massachusetts General), and four medical schools (Harvard, Boston University, University of Massachusetts, and Tufts). If the act passes in Massachusetts, other states that have previously had unsuccessful campaigns will certainly be emboldened to revisit this subject. The initiative would allow terminally ill patients with six months or less to live to request from their doctor a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug. Doctors do not have to offer the option at all, and patients must make three requests, two verbal and one written. They must self-administer the drug, which would be ingested. The patients must be deemed capable of making an informed decision. 'It's all about choice,' says George Eighmey, a key player in instituting the Oregon law, defending it against repeal and shepherding it into reality. 'You decide. No one else can decide for you. No can can force you into it, coerce you into it or even suggest it to you unless you make a statement: "I don't want to live like this any more" or "I'm interested in that law out there, doctor, can you give me something to alleviate this pain and suffering."'"

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439 comments

Governor Romney (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856545)

Installed death panels to "disappear" his elderly political opponents just before the election!!!

Re:Governor Romney (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856657)

It's a poor strategy, though, as now they'll all be voting Obama this year ;)

Question: (2, Informative)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856605)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

Or is this aiming to legally protect doctors who are assisting patients?

Re:Question: (4, Informative)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856645)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

Or is this aiming to legally protect doctors who are assisting patients?

Yes, and yes.

Re:Question: (-1, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856709)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

You said "no", I call bullshit. You can overdose from alcohol; people do it all the time. They call it "alcohol poisoning." Others overdose on heroin and other opiates. Others, barbituates. In fact, almost every "downer" drug can be lethal, even the over-the-counter drugs like alcohol.

You got the second question right, though.

Re:Question: (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856765)

Uh, he said yes.

I am taking a stab at the dark here, but I'm assuming they meant a prescription drug approach that is guaranteed and quick, as opposed to "might not work and leave you crippled". Not that I would want to do that, but I can surely guess that terminally ill folks would rather like to be able to choose when they die of their own volition.

Re:Question: (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856925)

Is there much of a difference between prescription opiates and street ones? Seems like everyday you hear more and more about the prescription ones being sold on the street or abused by radio personalities.

Re:Question: (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857181)

Uh, he said yes.

DOH! Had what my mom calls a "senior moment" and young folks call a "brain fart". But what he said was "it's hard to get lethal drugs" which is obviously false.

A bullet works, too, but it leaves more of a mess for someone to clean up. I understand haning one's self isn't a bad way to go. Slitting your wrists might be a little painful, particularly if the blade isn't sharp.

I'm assuming they meant a prescription drug approach that is guaranteed and quick, as opposed to "might not work and leave you crippled".

I've known a couple of people who have had nearly fatal overdoses of illegal drugs, who would have died had someone not found them, and none of them wound up crippled. And have you ever seen someone dying of cancer? They're already crippled.

I see this as a good thing; the last few weeks of a cancer patient's life is nothing short of hell itself. Yes, I lost a dear friend to cancer a few years ago, I would not want to die like she did. I'd far rather have a bullet to the brain.

Re:Question: (2)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857235)

That is one of the key points. Yeah, overdoses happen and people die from them, but much of the time an overdose doesn't kill the person (humans are a lot harder to poison then people think) and then leave you feeling even more miserable. I have known several people who tried to commit suicide via ingestion of various pills and survived.

And, of course, some people are just law abiding and, even if they will be dead, still do not want to break the law to do it.

Re:Question: (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856889)

Possible, but hardly "with dignity". You could still be found and rushed to a hospital, stomach pumped and kept alive. Plus quite likely getting forced into some kind of psychological treatment.

Even if not, there are other nasty side effects associated with any of the easily available methods.

So while it's possible to suicide on your own, it's difficult to manage with a minimum of discomfort.

Re:Question: (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856947)

You can, but to do so in a manner that will have a high probability of death rather than furthering injury (and hence suffering) is a trickier matter. The doctors can just make it less likely that your attempts will instead increase your suffering.

Re:Question: (1)

localman57 (1340533) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857027)

You can overdose from alcohol; people do it all the time. They call it "alcohol poisoning." Others overdose on heroin and other opiates. Others, barbituates. In fact, almost every "downer" drug can be lethal, even the over-the-counter drugs like alcohol

There's a big difference between "can" and "will". Any of those things "can" kill you, but probably won't. The body really, really wants to live. Most likey you'll end up in the hospital, which will try to nurse you back to health. In some states, you can also be committed to an institution against your will after a suicide attempt. I think the goal here is a suicide which is reliable, comfortable, and peaceful, and doesn't leave your corpse in a disturbing state for your descendants. Achieveing all four of those things at the same time is tricky.

Re:Question: (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857035)

It's easy to get a lethal dose, but it's less easy to get a lethal dose in forms that many of these people can actually take. It's hard to swallow a fist full of sleeping pills if you're on a feeding tube 24/7. Heck, it can be hard to swallow pills if you have a stroke. Then there's the fact that none of the drugs you mentioned produce death in ways that are at all pleasant. A terminal patient who wants to end their life shouldn't have to worry about spending their last conscious moments vomiting themselves to death. And that's if they don't botch it (not taking enough, vomiting up the pills before your body metabolizes them, etc).

Letting doctors prescribe a lethal dose means a single large injection of morphine and it means being unconscious in seconds and dead in minutes, with virtually no failure rate.

Re:Question: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857041)

You do realize that we're talking about people who may be confined to a bed in a hospital?

Options for overdosing become much more limited when you're hooked up to monitoring equipment and the stomach-pump machine is in the next room.

Re:Question: (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857087)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

You said "no", I call bullshit. You can overdose from alcohol; people do it all the time. They call it "alcohol poisoning." Others overdose on heroin and other opiates. Others, barbituates. In fact, almost every "downer" drug can be lethal, even the over-the-counter drugs like alcohol.

You got the second question right, though.

My experience is there is a stark contrast in the availability of illicit drugs. If you're in college or familiar in certain other subcultures, illegal drugs are quite easy to find. If you are not in one of those circle, however, and adverse to involvement of legal authorities, those same drugs may be all but impossible to obtain.

As for lethal alcohol poisoning, it's actually not that easy. Yes, it happens all the time, which is why I laugh every time I hear about it. "Wow, that guy REALLY wanted to die."

Off topic, sort of... (4, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857185)

Shouldn't the availability of such "end-of-life" drugs settle the "cruel and unusual" question in death penalty states? I mean if something like Propofol is so pleasant that it is the target of abuse, it should be perfectly fine for a pleasant, relaxing send off when a death row prisoner's time has come.

Bringing it back to "death with dignity", noone will force it, or even suggest it, but LWOP prisoners should also be offered the same option...

(lol - spell check on Propofol offers "Foolproof")

Re:Question: (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856887)

So then how do people get illegal drugs?
Are doctors supplying those?

You know you can just buy carbon monoxide, right?

Re:Question: (2)

Firehed (942385) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856783)

I imagine this allows ill patients to get access to something that will bring a much cleaner and painless death than downing an entire bottle of painkillers; i.e. more like a cyanide capsule.

It's easy to buy a lethal dose of caffeine (fairly cheap!) off Amazon, but going by how having way too much coffee feels, that would be a pretty crappy way to off oneself. Seems to go against that whole "dignity" thing they're aiming for.

Re:Question: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856785)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

No, of course not. Go home and down a bottle or two of OTC pills. Chances are it'll be lethal But by law, that is called "suicide".

Or is this aiming to legally protect doctors who are assisting patients?

Perhaps a bit of that yes. But chances are this law is to also enable those who wish to participate to be legally exempt from suicide clauses within life insurance policies (at least one would hope there would be provisions in this law for that).

Re:Question: (1)

werfu (1487909) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856815)

Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance? : For a young kid, no, but for a elderly totally. Anybody will tell you to simply shell out a hundred buck to get heroin or coke and buzz away your life. But can you simply imagine how an old lady would feel trying to get coke/heroin in a shady neighborhood? In fact there's most chance she would get mugged of her cash and left in pain.

Re:Question: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856867)

More importantly, if you're tied to a hospital bed slowly dying from cancer in its last stages you couldn't go try to score even if you wanted to.

Re:Question: (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857115)

Even if you could get somebody to score that amount of drugs for you and even have them help you take it, chances are the hospital people would notice (what with all the monitoring equipment) and interfere well before the dosage would be lethal.
You can't very well ask medical personel to just stand by while you slowly die; it wouldn't be fair to them. The only correct way would be one that is instantly fatal.

Re:Question: (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857217)

You sure can ask medical people to stand out of the way. What the hell do you think a DNR is?

Nearly nothing short of a helmet made of C4 is instantly fatal.

Re:Question: (4, Interesting)

Artraze (600366) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857021)

> Is it really that difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug without doctor assistance?

Yes.
To elaborate: It's difficult to acquire a lethal dose of a drug that is easy to administer and will result in guaranteed, peaceful death without little to no chance of (partial) survival. Sure you can drink bleach or try to OD on alcohol or acetaminophen/paracetamol or any number of things. But they can be quite unpleasant and/or leave you alive but even worse off.

> Or is this aiming to legally protect doctors who are assisting patients?

Less so, I'd wager. Realistically, people rarely ask questions if someone suffering and wishing to die dies in their sleep. Doctor: "They died in their sleep last night". Family: "Ah, well their suffering is over at least". Pretty much never: "I bet you turned their morphine up you bastard!". Of course, that really requires the patient to be literally on their death bed, but either way I think the point of this is entirely a way to reduce suffering of the terminally ill and not really about doctor liability.

Re:Question: (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857221)

Doctor: "They died in their sleep last night". Family: "Ah, well their suffering is over at least". Pretty much never: "I bet you turned their morphine up you bastard!"

Pretty much never isn't good enough. If you're a doctor, are you really going to risk your career on the off chance that you get a family who is so overcome with rage that they demand a toxicology screen on their dead loved one? How about twice? How about 100 times over the course of your career? (sounds like a lot, but if you only practice for 20 years that would be less than one patient every two months). How about we have it nice and legal; so the decision is documented and acknowledged by the family and no one has to risk getting their life destroyed for doing what more and more people are of the opinion is the right thing to do.

Re:Question: (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857257)

What would the toxicology screening find?
That a dose of morphine that would not have killed a normal person might have done him in? Or that since he was on morphine for so long he was on an unusually high dose?

Re:Question: (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857051)

You'd think a country that executes prisoners humanely (as much as I'm opposed to death penalty, atleast they're not tortured) would want the atleast the same humane treatment for it's citizens that actually choose to die.

Re:Question: (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857105)

It's to protect the doctors. The truth of the matter is many doctors who have patients in these situations routinely make more than enough medication available for someone who wants to take that option. Most won't go so far as actually assisting, but they typically make the option there. This also means there is a much greater chance of not having things work out as planned and creating a bigger mess of a bad situation. Hopefully this helps that.

Re:Question: (4, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857127)

Yes and no. Most people are not medical experts and, shouldn't have to become so just to die with some dignity.

The thing is, what kills one person may not kill another and most things that you can eaisly get your hands on, and even most prescriptions, are within dosage ranges that are quite safe. Yes, you can kill yourself many ways, but, many of those ways are less effective than you might think.

I personally knew a guy who tried to off himself with barbituates. He failed, woke up several days later. This is actually fairly common with that route.

Also many terminally ill patients are in no condition to do that research and administer the drugs without help.

Which is why, I think we really need the second... Doctors able to help.

I plan to vote for this one. I have worked among the medical community (at MGH no less), I have been there when my family had to have stern words with doctors who somehow interpreted our grandfather's DNR order as "Recessitate and put on a ventilator".

This is such an important issue for so many reasons. So many people in ongoing pain that don't need to be, so many families that need to move on. I hate to bring it to money but.... 50% of health care costs are spent in the last 5 years of life.....and for what? The fact that so many doctors opt to not have chemo and opt to die rather than hang on like so many of their patients are made to should say something.

Don't get me wrong, if someone wants to fight to the biter end, and get as many waking moments as possible, regardless of their quality, more power to them. However, what compassion is there in forcing people to go on living who have nothing to look forward to except deterioration in a bed?

I honestly think Bill Hicks described the situation best in his comical suggestion that we use terminally ill people as stunt doubles in action films. "Do you want your grandmother to die in a sterile hospital bed, he translucent skin so thin you can see the last beat of her heart, or do you want her to meet Chuck Norris?.... wow Chuck just kicked her head clear off, my grandma is no longer in pain...this is the best movie ever!"

Drone (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856613)

Predator drone attacks for everyone now.

What drugs and what protections from failure? (1, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856655)

What drug would they prescribe? And what if a person starts taking it and then changes their mind after half of it? Ideally it would be a drug that does not damage the person if it doesn't kill them. Otherwise botched self administrations might just harm people or make them worse off but still alive. I'm not sure how much of an issue this is, but it seems worth considering.

Re:What drugs and what protections from failure? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856959)

Why not just barbiturates?

Quick and can easily be given in such high doses that survival is no concern.

Re:What drugs and what protections from failure? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856991)

It will probably be in single pill form - i.e. you can't take half of it unless you are seriously trying to screw yourself or the system.

Re:What drugs and what protections from failure? (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857123)

What drug would they prescribe?

Weed, of course. Not only is it the cheapest and easiest to acquire, but it's obviously fast acting and effective considering the reported accounts of overdose.
/sarcasm

Almost as good as dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856659)

My dog can still shit in public

Death with Dignity. (-1, Flamebait)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856685)

Or in other words, we don't like seeing sick old people. So we try to kill them off.

The reason why the elderly who are in medical care don't have dignity is because we as a civilization have setup a structure where such people are considered a drain on society.

Re:Death with Dignity. (4, Insightful)

Joehonkie (665142) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856753)

Where does this even mention "the elderly?" It mentions people with terminal ilnesses, which can start very young indeed.

Re:Death with Dignity. (2)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856799)

I don't think that's how I'd interpret any of that. Consider this: You're 90-something, you shit yourself continually, you forget what you are doing periodically, and it's painful to continue to exist. That is, you are in constant pain. The 'solution' to this is that you keep munching down pain pills that slowly kill the rest of your organs, offering up delightful side-effects all the while.

I don't think that's a societal issue in the way you are thinking it is, unless your idea of a solution is to have "old people in pain" pride parades where you spread awareness of their constant pain and agony, or something, because you think that will make it go away?

Re:Death with Dignity. (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856871)

I don't think that's how I'd interpret any of that. Consider this: You're 90-something, you shit yourself continually, you forget what you are doing periodically, and it's painful to continue to exist. That is, you are in constant pain. The 'solution' to this is that you keep munching down pain pills that slowly kill the rest of your organs, offering up delightful side-effects all the while.

I don't think that's a societal issue in the way you are thinking it is, unless your idea of a solution is to have "old people in pain" pride parades where you spread awareness of their constant pain and agony, or something, because you think that will make it go away?

I don't know about other people, but I will not live that way, I plan on dying in my 60's. Unless technology changes in such a way that I got better options. But then unlike most people, death isn't what scares me.

Re:Death with Dignity. (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856957)

Oh yeah, absolutely. The moment I start to go, I'm offing myself. I'll take oblivion over living in my own filth, forgetting who I am every day, and being too frail to actually interact with the world. I'll EASILY take the end over that.

Re:Death with Dignity. (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856821)

No dude, sorry. Imagine that I'm paralyzed down half my body, can't breath without oxygen, can't take a piss without someone helping me, and knowing that there is no chance at all that I will ever get better, that in fact I will most likely get worse every day until the day I die. Sorry, there's no dignity in that. Let me go. Painlessly, cleanly, and by my own decision, but let me go. Freedom over your own body should be the ultimate freedom, telling someone in that position that you won't let them die isn't just insensitive, it's downright cruel and selfish.

Re:Death with Dignity. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857023)

Imagine that I'm paralyzed down half my body, can't breath without oxygen,

Imagine that you can't even spell the word breathe.

Re:Death with Dignity. (2)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856839)

It's not that we don't like seeing sick old people, it's just that sometimes sick, old people, are tired of being sick, old people. They are in chronic pain, they are incontinent, they have skin break down that doesn't heal. They frequently fall and break bones, sometimes time after time after time. Why should someone who is in chronic pain, constantly shitting themselves who doesn't have the physical strength to turn themselves in bed or possibly finish a meal because they are too tired, be forced to go on simply because their body doesn't know it's time to quit? If a person decides they've had enough, why is that not good enough for you to accept? The summary and accompanying articles states very plainly that the law says it has to be initiated by the person involved and that they have to make that statement 3 times. What part of that are you not getting?

Re:Death with Dignity. (1)

WhitePanther5000 (766529) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856841)

Did you read TFS? I wouldn't call it "trying to kill them off" by requiring the patient to explicitly request it 3 times when they only have 6 months or less to live.

Personally, I'm in favor of acts like this. I would much rather die on my own terms, when I'm ready, than to wait a year in bed with agonizing pain while the cancer claims me. We allow this for dogs, but until recently we haven't been humane enough to allow it for humans.

Re:Death with Dignity. (1, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856875)

its about giving the individual CONTROL OVER THEIR OWN BODIES.

you know, like women have been fighting for and fighting to maintain.

and certain religious groups want to pull that control back.

really, the only groups yelling against this are the religious based ones. their god says that killing yourself is wrong, and so they go to great lengths to outlaw it FOR EVERYONE. even those that don't subscribe to their belief system.

a person's life and body is their own. they are free to do with it as they wish.

Re:Death with Dignity. (1, Informative)

Empiric (675968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857157)

Just to note, though I'm averse in general to the "religion says its wrong, therefore its right" form of rationale...

There are no prohibitions of suicide in Judeo-Christian scriptures.

Re:Death with Dignity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856931)

This isn't just about old people. In fact, mostly the people who are fighting for this aren't old and aren't dealing with old people. The court battles usually fought for DwD laws are typically brought by people suffering from incurable conditions/diseases like ALS or cancer. People who are dealing with very limited time and who do not wish to be stuck living in pain or simply existing, trapped in their own bodies. This isn't about bumping off old people, it's about letting people who have no hope end their lives as peacefully and with as much dignity as possible.

Re:Death with Dignity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856963)

My grandmother has Alzheimer's disease and for the last ten years has had no clue who she is, where she is or what's going on around her. She can't speak and she can't stand or walk without assistance. She also has no control over her bodily functions and, despite receiving the best of care, has no dignity whatsoever.

So let me ask you, would you like to spend ten years living in that sate or would you rather be put out of your misery?

I suspect it's the later, so why don't you drop the "I'm so morality superior" bullshit and look at this from a rational perspective. This is without doubt a good step forward, but it needs to be extended to everyone, not just to those with terminal disease. I certainty have no intention of living in a similar state to my grandmother and I like to be able to create a test along the lines of "when I can't answer the below questions please kill me". Unfortunately, people like you stop that sort of thing from happening. I can only hope you have a very drawn out and undignified old age.

Re:Death with Dignity. (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856965)

The reason why the elderly who are in medical care don't have dignity is because we as a civilization have setup a structure where such people are considered a drain on society.

Ever watched someone die of cancer? No matter how well cared-for they are, there is absolutely nothing dignified about it.

The "drain on society" has nothing to do with people dying a slow, painful and drawn-out death that can't be averted with modern medicine. Nice attempt to confuse the issue though.

Re:Death with Dignity. (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856999)

Or maybe we like planning for our futures. Short of one of these laws my plan is manufactured by Remington if that day should ever come.

Re:Death with Dignity. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857203)

Nobody is forcing anything on anybody.
Please read TFA or even TFS and explain how anybody but the person himself gets to decide on his own life?

"Physicial assisted-suicide" (1)

ildon (413912) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856701)

How is this term at all antiquated or even at all inaccurate for this situation?

Physician-assisted suicide (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856885)

"Suicide" is considered a loaded term with bad connotations, as people desiring death are considered "mentally ill", so the newspeak term does not include it.

Re:"Physicial assisted-suicide" (3, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856943)

It's antiquated because the last time someone really tried to push for it, he became a pariah to some people and a joke to others; which is why we needed a new term to introduce to people so that it doesn't carry the baggage of the previous attempts.

Stupid Law (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856729)

This is idiotic. People figure this out all the time, they don't need gov't to help them.

Next, we'll have ObamaCare demanding that the Catholics offer this option.

Re:Stupid Law (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857223)

You're dense. Some people may work around it, but it's considered suicide, and anyone who helped them is looking at criminal charges. What's idiotic is thinking that it shouldn't be made legal just because some people do it anyway - isn't that a reason it shouldn't be illegal?

Next, we'll have ObamaCare demanding that the Catholics offer this option.

Oh, you're one of those people. The Catholic church has never been told to provide anything that any other employer hasn't been told to. What you're referencing isn't some kind of attack singled out against them, it's them not getting special treatment and exemption from the laws that apply to everyone else.

Lot more dignity than a self-inflicted gunshot (4, Interesting)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856733)

At least this will allow someone to go with their family around (and without the mess).

Of course, doctors have been doing this sort of thing "off the books" forever. When I was a kid and a certain person I knew was dying, his doctor gave him a orders not to let his nurse inject him with this particular syringe of morphine (wink, wink).

Re:Lot more dignity than a self-inflicted gunshot (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857067)

One of my greatest regrets is not noticing when a doctor did this. They left the morphine drip machine unlocked and showed us how we must not turn it up. I was only 14, but I really wish I would have realized what they were trying to tell us at the time.

We need a cut out for EOL malpractice suits (0)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857247)

I would say that when it comes down to it a Doctor saying "Okay ive consulted with 4 of the best folks in this specialty and we came up with this treatment that has a 10% chance of working but a 40% chance of you not surviving the treatment how do you want to proceed???" should include a Waiver of Liability.

In these cases First Do No Harm should include the fact that stretching Life out that is only Technically Life is HARM.

And this is of course why consulting with Dr Daniels is very popular with Cancer and Pediatrics Doctors/Nurses

life insurance (2)

tippe (1136385) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856767)

I wonder what life insurance companies have to say about this. Specifically, does exercising your right to "die with dignity" automatically cause you to forfeit any life insurance that you might have? If so, that's going to doubly suck for the family you leave behind, especially if you have unpaid debts that'll be passed down to them...

Re:life insurance (1)

theNetImp (190602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856901)

I would hope anyone seriously considering that would weigh all the options and outcomes.

Re:life insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857015)

I've never understood "unpaid debts that'll be passed down to them..."

I've heard it over and over again, and I just don't get how that's possible. If my parents kick the bucket, and someone ask me to pay for their debts, they're going to hear "no" in as many inappropriate ways I know.

What legal position do they have to collect on an ancestor's debt?

I understand how life insurance will go to debtors first, because they need to pay their liabilities before their assets are free to be given to inheritors, but beyond reducing inheritance to 0, how can debts transfer?

Re:life insurance (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857099)

Life insurance will NOT GO TO DEBTORS.

Life insurance is payed to the beneficiary not the Estate. Life insurance can not be claimed against for debts of the deceased since it was never paid to him.

Creditors will lie to you about this, they will attempt to swindle you out of the money.

Re:life insurance (1)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857075)

Some insurance policies have specific suicide language in them, barring a claim for a suicide for a policy in force for less than a year, for example. That prevents someone from buying a million dollar policy today and killing themselves tomorrow so their family can pay off their debts.

In a way, I suppose it's like a waiting period for guns: it interferes with you doing something regrettable in a heated response to a bad situation.

Re:life insurance (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857107)

Per the act: "The attending physician may sign the patient’s death certificate which shall list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death." So the insurance company might not even get to know.

Link to the 2012 Ballot Questions (pdf). This question is #2:
http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/IFV-2012.pdf

Is that a regional dialect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856769)

TFA and TFS say "No can can force you into it". Did the speaker misspeak, the publication misquote, or is it a regional dialect like "His shoes need shined"?

What about terminally ill witches? (1)

jest3r (458429) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856773)

Do terminally ill witches get to die with dignity too now or do they still get hanged?

Re:What about terminally ill witches? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856899)

Do terminally ill witches get to die with dignity too now or do they still get hanged?

Hanged? We burn witches in these parts. Tie them up to stake, and bust out the smores. Witch burning tonight!!!

Re:What about terminally ill witches? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857101)

Do terminally ill witches get to die with dignity too now or do they still get hanged?

No, they are given the dignity of a funeral pyre. It's just that they get preferential seating at the event.

"No can can force you into it, coerce you into it" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856775)

while I completely support choice re: end of life you're kidding yourself if you think hmo lobbyists won't be whipping out the checkbook to move the goal line. the day after scotus upholds a right to physician assisted suicide (or whatever pc euphamism replaces it) all the major hmo(s) will announce they're outsourcing their oncology departments to the texas department of public safety: "mr jones, I'm afraid you have stage 1 {body part} cancer... it has a 95% 5-yr survival rate with modestly priced treatment but we don't want to take any chances so we're sending you to our special facility in huntsville, tx - they're the best in the world at this sort of thing!"

that said I still support this & similar legislation...

Details of the Ballot Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856777)

http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_2.htm

killing (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856781)

why are liberals always trying to kill people? the unborn, the elderly, the sick....
very strange indeed...

Re:killing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856935)

do us all a favor and kill yourself, your not contributing to society in any meaningful way.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856797)

To be honest I have no problem with this, as long as the law doesn't force doctors to comply. In other words, I am perfectly ok with it not being criminal for a doctor to prescribe a drug like this at the patients request, but the law should not FORCE them to do it. Just as it is up the patient to ask, it should be up to the doctor as to whether they will go along with it.

Re:Well... (1)

theNetImp (190602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856975)

"Participation under the proposed law would be voluntary. An unwilling health care provider could prohibit or sanction another health care provider for participating while on the premises of, or while acting as an employee of or contractor for, the unwilling provider."

IANAL (1)

mfh (56) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856835)

Hey lawyers, could a "living will" work here? Would I be able to not proxy my dignified death to someone trusted when I was incapable of doing it myself? From my perspective if a person accepts that death happens to all of us, we owe it to society to leave the world sooner rather than leaving a huge bill to eat away at the inheritance of loved ones.

Re:IANAL (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857163)

The way this law is written only the patient himself or herself may request the prescription. Not parents with a terminally ill child, not the children of the dying, not the hospital administrator, not the attending physician or the nurses watching over. The patient.

Of course, enforcing that that is the case is its own can of worms.

pain relief (1)

slashkitty (21637) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856847)

those statements just sound like they want pain relief. "doctor, can you give me something to alleviate this pain and suffering" I'm sure a lot of people say this everyday. They don't want to die and they might get better.

People with strong religious convictions (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856861)

People with strong religious convictions are the ones who have opposed Death With Dignity in other states. They should be free to suffer to death in there own excrement, vomit, and drool if they like. They should also not attempt to control how others choose to live or die.

Yes, please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856865)

I am very happy to see this come up and I hope Massachusetts passes this into law. In Canada we've been fighting on-again-off-again legal battles for the right to assisted dying and, so far, we haven't had much luck. It's a tricky subject and not many politicians are willing to tackle it.

I would very much like to see Dying with Dignity laws passed in more areas, not just for the old or the infirm, but for people suffering from terminal cancer or ALS. People who are trapped in their bodies and are either unable to move or who are facing a drawn out, painful existence. I've seen family and friends die slowly and painfully and I wish they had been given the option to have a doctor painlessly help them on their way.

When I reach a point I no longer feel like I'm living, but simply existing, I want the option to end live on my terms. I hope the law allows for this when the time eventually comes.

Why not? It worked so well in Germany in 1939 (-1, Troll)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856893)

Germans needed the "right to die", and were given "mercy killings" beginning with the parent-approved (and Hitler-approved) death of blind, limbless, convulsing infant Gerhard Kretschmar in July, 1939. How easily we forget that this led to 300,000 "mercy killings" of physically disabled and psychiatric patients (including thousands of children and elderly nursing home residents). The patients were selected by their kindly physicians and psychiatrists for death, and this program was actually the precursor to the mass killings of the Jewish concentration camp prisoners. I highly recommend that you DO NOT read the fascinating chapter on the Nazi killing of disabled children, "The Geranium in the Window", in Fredric Wertham's omnibus review of human violence, "A Sign for Cain" (http://www.amazon.com/Sign-Cain-Exploration-Human-Violence/dp/0026259702). It will give you nightmares for decades.

Re:Why not? It worked so well in Germany in 1939 (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857129)

You do not even need to look to Germany. Try googling "Liverpool Care Pathway News".

Re:Why not? It worked so well in Germany in 1939 (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857177)

Choosing to kill yourself and killing others is quite different. If you cannot see that you are beyond help.

some sense at last (3, Informative)

thephydes (727739) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856897)

I hope this spreads to other countries. What is proposed is a good step that I would support 100% if I lived there. My wife works runs a palliative care ward and the stories she tells me about patients wanting legislation like this are common.

Dear "editors" (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856915)

When you write "the nation dies", with the singular conjugation for the verb "die", you're implying dying of the nation as a collective entity.

Did you guys even get a GED?

Two birds with one stone (2)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year and a half ago | (#41856979)

I think we should go all the way here. Let's be honest -- social security and medicare are not going to be there for us and who wants to be old anyway? I propose that at age 65 (or perhaps earlier as needed) all men be issued two bottles of viagra, a key of pure (98% minimum) Colombian flake cocaine, and a week's worth of services from three strippers.

The advantages should be obvious -- it's cheaper for everyone and certainly more enjoyable. What better way to die than while high as a kite and busting a nut inside a foxy coed? Certainly beats spending months in a hospital bed hooked up to a machine.

Editors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41856981)

Are there editors here to correct grammar? The title and summary are full of mistakes.

DO NOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857005)

Play with god's will.

Touchy subject (1)

Celtic Ferret (1336711) | about a year and a half ago | (#41857141)

This is a really charged topic full of misinformation. From religion to media misrepresentation to healthcare to politics to insurance - it is extremely difficult to obtain factual, helpful information for someone who wants to check out easily, cheaply and comfortably. The only thing I'm aware of is helium and when the "powers that be" figure that one out it will either become a controlled substance or outrageously expensive (or both).

Check "Final Exit" by Derek Humphry at your local library or online (http://www.finalexit.org/).

Insurance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41857243)

What does a "death with dignity" do to a life insurance contract? Usually, these exclude suicide. So does that mean that people won't do "death with dignity" because their loved ones won't get any insurance they would otherwise?

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