Key Facts About the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act

The Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act:

Protects the right of individuals to make voluntary and informed decisions about end-of-life care

- Terminally ill adults with six months or less to live would be allowed to receive and self-administer a prescription for life-ending medication

- The act gives patients dignity, control, and peace of mind during their final days with family and loved ones

- These most intimate personal choices should remain in the hands of the patient, not the government

Expands end-of-life care options for terminally ill patients

- The terminally ill patients who may choose to use this law very much want to live, but disease is killing them. This act allows mentally competent adults the option of making the decision to end suffering that cannot be adequately controlled

- Providing terminally ill patients the option to end one’s life in a humane and dignified manner encourages honest conversations between patients and doctors about end-of-life care. By engaging in an open discussion, patients will demand more active participation and decision making in their own end-of-life care

Respects and upholds the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship

- The protections in the Death with Dignity act ensure that patients remain the driving force and decision makers in end-of-life care discussions

- All medication prescribed under this act must be self-administered by the patient

Contains strict safeguards to ensure that the patient is making a voluntary and informed decision

- Doctors are required to inform patients about all their end-of-life care options, including palliative care, pain management, and hospice care

- Two physicians must verify the mental competence of the terminally ill patient and the voluntary nature of the request

- Three requests must be made by the patient for the prescription, two oral and one written. There is a 15-day waiting period between the first oral request and the writing of the prescription, and a 48-hour waiting period between the written request and the writing of the prescription

- The terminally ill patient’s written request must be independently witnessed by two people

- Only the terminally ill patient may self-administer the medication

- Only adult residents of Massachusetts may receive prescriptions under the act

- The patient may change his or her mind at any time


  • Dignity 2012
    PO Box 51700
    Boston, MA 02205

  • Phone: (617) 702-2012
  • Fax: (617) 507-6426
  • [email protected]