The Dignity 2012 coalition today submitted more than 86,000 certified signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, well exceeding the 68,911 required for the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act to clear the most significant hurdle on its path to the 2012 ballot.
The proposed Death with Dignity ballot question would give terminally ill patients greater peace of mind, choice, and control in their final days of life. It would allow individuals with six months or less to live to request and self-administer, under strict safeguards, a prescription for life-ending medication.
“We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response from people across Massachusetts who believe terminally ill patients deserve greater control over their end-of-life care,” said Michael Clarke, campaign director for Dignity 2012. “These decisions are deeply intimate and personal, and belong in the hands of individuals, not the government.”
Death with Dignity laws, which have been approved by voters in two states, recognize the right of individuals to make voluntary and informed decisions about end-of-life care. The proposed law contains comprehensive and strict safeguards to protect both patients and doctors. Doctors must verify the mental competence of the patient and the voluntary nature of the request, and there is a 15-day waiting period between the request and the writing of the prescription. The patient has the right to change his or her mind at any time.
“The Massachusetts Death with Dignity law will help promote more honest conversations between patients, families, and doctors about end-of-life care,” said Edward Lowenstein, M.D., one of the original signers of the petition. “It offers the terminally ill increased control over their end-of-life decisions, while ensuring that patients continue to have access to an increasingly wide range of palliative and hospice care treatments.”
The voter signatures were certified by the local registrars in each city and town before being submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. The Massachusetts state legislature will then have until May to choose whether or not to act on the proposal before it appears before voters on the 2012 ballot.