NM Assisted Suicide Law

Newsweek published this piece written by the Patients Rights Action Fund Executive Director, Matt Valliere, on the flaws in the New Mexico assisted suicide law. Below are excerpts – read the entire article at

“In the midst of a pandemic, the New Mexico state legislature ignored the needs of its constituents—many of whom lack basics like reliable electricity and running water, never mind basic medical care—in favor of passing a dangerous and discriminatory assisted suicide law. This and similar policies in other states have proven the failure of proponents to safeguard the people most susceptible to abuse, mistakes and coercion….

The New Mexico legislature had a critical chance to address the glaring issues in our health care system that the pandemic exposed. They could have increased access and education for patients, training in palliative and hospice care for medical professionals, expanded home health and personal care aid or family caregiver relief. Equal access to the gold standard of care should be top priority in both policy and medicine. Giving medical professionals immunity to assist in their patients’ suicide not only fails to address any of the system’s problems, but exacerbates the current disparities. The rest of us can avoid making the same mistake in other states by rejecting dangerous and discriminatory assisted suicide laws.”

History News

2012 Voting Stats

2012 Massachusetts Ballot Question 2 on physician assisted suicide, voting results by town.

Summary: Should a doctor be legally allowed to prescribe medication, at a terminally ill patient’s request, to end that patient’s life?


“Difference” measures percent difference between no and yes votes.

TownsPrecinctsYesNoTotal votesYes %No %Difference
Abington5 of 53,6004,3777,97745.1%54.9%9.7%
Acton6 of 65,8195,00510,82453.8%46.2%-7.5%
Acushnet3 of 31,8603,2045,06436.7%63.3%26.5%
Adams5 of 51,9281,8643,79250.8%49.2%-1.7%
Agawam8 of 86,0887,80113,88943.8%56.2%12.3%
Alford1 of 12316129279.1%20.9%-58.2%
Amesbury6 of 64,5263,6608,18655.3%44.7%-10.6%
Amherst10 of 1010,4313,98914,42072.3%27.7%-44.7%
Andover11 of 119,2568,84218,09851.1%48.9%-2.3%
Aquinnah1 of 12048428870.8%29.2%-41.7%
Arlington21 of 2114,35210,64825,00057.4%42.6%-14.8%
Ashburnham1 of 11,6211,4893,11052.1%47.9%-4.2%
Ashby1 of 19348641,79851.9%48.1%-3.9%
Ashfield1 of 18022881,09073.6%26.4%-47.2%
Ashland5 of 54,4103,8798,28953.2%46.8%-6.4%
Athol3 of 32,2392,3594,59848.7%51.3%2.6%
Attleboro12 of 128,4699,69618,16546.6%53.4%6.8%
Auburn5 of 53,8244,6948,51844.9%55.1%10.2%
Avon1 of 19913441,33574.2%25.8%-48.5%
Ayer2 of 21,7441,7873,53149.4%50.6%1.2%
Barnstable13 of 1311,93412,60624,54048.6%51.4%2.7%
Barre2 of 21,3281,3402,66849.8%50.2%0.4%
Becket1 of 168625193773.2%26.8%-46.4%
Bedford4 of 44,1503,2317,38156.2%43.8%-12.5%
Belchertown4 of 43,8963,5107,40652.6%47.4%-5.2%
Bellingham6 of 63,8734,4028,27546.8%53.2%6.4%
Belmont8 of 87,6225,85313,47556.6%43.4%-13.1%
Berkley2 of 21,5281,6893,21747.5%52.5%5.0%
Berlin1 of 19488191,76753.7%46.3%-7.3%
Bernardston1 of 16374841,12156.8%43.2%-13.6%
Beverly12 of 129,89310,25320,14649.1%50.9%1.8%
Billerica11 of 118,94610,64719,59345.7%54.3%8.7%
Blackstone3 of 31,9532,2504,20346.5%53.5%7.1%
Blandford1 of 135529865354.4%45.6%-8.7%
Bolton1 of 11,6811,3313,01255.8%44.2%-11.6%
Boston254 of 254111,852107,377219,22951.0%49.0%-2.0%
Bourne7 of 74,8135,0679,88048.7%51.3%2.6%
Boxborough1 of 11,6571,1912,84858.2%41.8%-16.4%
Boxford3 of 32,7582,2915,04954.6%45.4%-9.2%
Boylston1 of 11,3411,2602,60151.6%48.4%-3.1%
Braintree12 of 127,82510,90718,73241.8%58.2%16.5%
Brewster3 of 33,4182,8566,27454.5%45.5%-9.0%
Bridgewater7 of 75,2556,38511,64045.1%54.9%9.7%
Brimfield1 of 19751,0392,01448.4%51.6%3.2%
Brockton28 of 2811,30519,91131,21636.2%63.8%27.6%
Brookfield1 of 18498241,67350.7%49.3%-1.5%
Brookline16 of 1617,8048,88326,68766.7%33.3%-33.4%
Buckland1 of 16363751,01162.9%37.1%-25.8%
Burlington7 of 75,4987,39012,88842.7%57.3%14.7%
Cambridge34 of 3430,90914,63945,54867.9%32.1%-35.7%
Canton6 of 65,6406,36712,00747.0%53.0%6.1%
Carlisle1 of 12,0971,1763,27364.1%35.9%-28.1%
Carver3 of 32,7713,1725,94346.6%53.4%6.7%
Charlemont1 of 138723161862.6%37.4%-25.2%
Charlton4 of 43,0573,4846,54146.7%53.3%6.5%
Chatham1 of 12,4012,0464,44754.0%46.0%-8.0%
Chelmsford9 of 98,84610,09118,93746.7%53.3%6.6%
Chelsea16 of 162,8474,2527,09940.1%59.9%19.8%
Cheshire1 of 19287791,70754.4%45.6%-8.7%
Chester1 of 134331365652.3%47.7%-4.6%
Chesterfield1 of 146824070866.1%33.9%-32.2%
Chicopee20 of 208,80013,53222,33239.4%60.6%21.2%
Chilmark1 of 154215469677.9%22.1%-55.7%
Clarksburg1 of 140843684448.3%51.7%3.3%
Clinton4 of 42,5023,3375,83942.8%57.2%14.3%
Cohasset2 of 22,3582,3644,72249.9%50.1%0.1%
Colrain1 of 154032386362.6%37.4%-25.1%
Concord5 of 56,5694,03610,60561.9%38.1%-23.9%
Conway1 of 18793521,23171.4%28.6%-42.8%
Cummington1 of 137314752071.7%28.3%-43.5%
Dalton2 of 21,6731,6393,31250.5%49.5%-1.0%
Danvers8 of 86,4357,80914,24445.2%54.8%9.6%
Dartmouth9 of 96,9008,63815,53844.4%55.6%11.2%
Dedham7 of 76,0266,95512,98146.4%53.6%7.2%
Deerfield1 of 11,7511,1882,93959.6%40.4%-19.2%
Dennis5 of 54,2614,6528,91347.8%52.2%4.4%
Dighton2 of 21,5521,9803,53243.9%56.1%12.1%
Douglas3 of 32,1882,2334,42149.5%50.5%1.0%
Dover1 of 11,9261,5483,47455.4%44.6%-10.9%
Dracut10 of 106,1308,36214,49242.3%57.7%15.4%
Dudley3 of 32,1272,8755,00242.5%57.5%15.0%
Dunstable1 of 11,0308141,84455.9%44.1%-11.7%
Duxbury5 of 63,8214,0837,90448.3%51.7%3.3%
East Bridgewater4 of 43,3313,8017,13246.7%53.3%6.6%
East Brookfield1 of 14906451,13543.2%56.8%13.7%
Eastham1 of 11,9681,6393,60754.6%45.4%-9.1%
Easthampton5 of 54,9753,8298,80456.5%43.5%-13.0%
East Longmeadow4 of 43,5794,7238,30243.1%56.9%13.8%
Easton6 of 65,4026,12411,52646.9%53.1%6.3%
Edgartown1 of 11,5139222,43562.1%37.9%-24.3%
Egremont1 of 162117879977.7%22.3%-55.4%
Erving1 of 138536775251.2%48.8%-2.4%
Essex1 of 11,2408722,11258.7%41.3%-17.4%
Everett12 of 124,5297,35511,88438.1%61.9%23.8%
Fairhaven6 of 63,6634,2407,90346.3%53.7%7.3%
Fall River29 of 299,96917,07027,03936.9%63.1%26.3%
Falmouth9 of 99,9418,86918,81052.8%47.2%-5.7%
Fitchburg12 of 125,7007,97513,67541.7%58.3%16.6%
Florida1 of 121315436758.0%42.0%-16.1%
Foxborough5 of 54,4265,0379,46346.8%53.2%6.5%
Framingham18 of 1813,44713,15326,60050.6%49.4%-1.1%
Franklin8 of 87,9588,91216,87047.2%52.8%5.7%
Freetown3 of 32,1242,4154,53946.8%53.2%6.4%
Gardner10 of 103,3154,6357,95041.7%58.3%16.6%
Georgetown3 of 32,4012,4034,80450.0%50.0%0.0%
Gill1 of 155330385664.6%35.4%-29.2%
Gloucester10 of 108,0066,76014,76654.2%45.8%-8.4%
Goshen1 of 137622660262.5%37.5%-24.9%
Gosnold1 of 160248471.4%28.6%-42.9%
Grafton5 of 54,5484,7449,29248.9%51.1%2.1%
Granby2 of 21,6761,7643,44048.7%51.3%2.6%
Granville1 of 145540085553.2%46.8%-6.4%
Great Barrington4 of 42,2701,1643,43466.1%33.9%-32.2%
Greenfield9 of 94,8383,2878,12559.5%40.5%-19.1%
Groton3 of 33,4042,5385,94257.3%42.7%-14.6%
Groveland2 of 21,9591,9333,89250.3%49.7%-0.7%
Hadley1 of 11,6901,2622,95257.2%42.8%-14.5%
Halifax2 of 21,8292,1253,95446.3%53.7%7.5%
Hamilton3 of 32,2382,1174,35551.4%48.6%-2.8%
Hampden1 of 11,2481,5562,80444.5%55.5%11.0%
Hancock1 of 125711036770.0%30.0%-40.1%
Hanover4 of 43,3634,7128,07541.6%58.4%16.7%
Hanson3 of 32,5072,9785,48545.7%54.3%8.6%
Hardwick1 of 16916081,29953.2%46.8%-6.4%
Harvard1 of 12,2271,2843,51163.4%36.6%-26.9%
Harwich4 of 43,9973,8747,87150.8%49.2%-1.6%
Hatfield1 of 11,1348692,00356.6%43.4%-13.2%
Haverhill21 of 2112,27314,28426,55746.2%53.8%7.6%
Hawley1 of 11197519461.3%38.7%-22.7%
Heath1 of 124218142357.2%42.8%-14.4%
Hingham7 of 76,5837,15613,73947.9%52.1%4.2%
Hinsdale1 of 16353861,02162.2%37.8%-24.4%
Holbrook4 of 42,1783,0695,24741.5%58.5%17.0%
Holden5 of 54,7055,55610,26145.9%54.1%8.3%
Holland1 of 16586081,26652.0%48.0%-3.9%
Holliston4 of 44,0434,0158,05850.2%49.8%-0.3%
Holyoke14 of 145,6608,95714,61738.7%61.3%22.6%
Hopedale1 of 11,5061,6893,19547.1%52.9%5.7%
Hopkinton4 of 44,4563,9618,41752.9%47.1%-5.9%
Hubbardston1 of 11,2481,2532,50149.9%50.1%0.2%
Hudson7 of 74,7734,9649,73749.0%51.0%2.0%
Hull3 of 33,1972,6825,87954.4%45.6%-8.8%
Huntington1 of 15695161,08552.4%47.6%-4.9%
Ipswich4 of 44,4553,6608,11554.9%45.1%-9.8%
Kingston4 of 43,1963,6196,81546.9%53.1%6.2%
Lakeville3 of 32,7102,9605,67047.8%52.2%4.4%
Lancaster2 of 21,6501,9713,62145.6%54.4%8.9%
Lanesborough1 of 11,0165351,55165.5%34.5%-31.0%
Lawrence24 of 245,23111,89017,12130.6%69.4%38.9%
Lee1 of 11,5011,3182,81953.2%46.8%-6.5%
Leicester4 of 42,3513,0505,40143.5%56.5%12.9%
Lenox1 of 11,7311,1402,87160.3%39.7%-20.6%
Leominster15 of 157,56910,33117,90042.3%57.7%15.4%
Leverett1 of 19302591,18978.2%21.8%-56.4%
Lexington9 of 910,8366,70217,53861.8%38.2%-23.6%
Leyden1 of 131613044670.9%29.1%-41.7%
Lincoln2 of 22,3441,2203,56465.8%34.2%-31.5%
Littleton3 of 3000#DIV/0!#DIV/0!#DIV/0!
Longmeadow5 of 54,6624,4999,16150.9%49.1%-1.8%
Lowell33 of 3312,46816,97229,44042.4%57.6%15.3%
Ludlow6 of 63,6005,6399,23939.0%61.0%22.1%
Lunenburg4 of 42,8142,9425,75648.9%51.1%2.2%
Lynn28 of 2811,74517,06828,81340.8%59.2%18.5%
Lynnfield4 of 43,1013,8726,97344.5%55.5%11.1%
Malden16 of 168,39910,84619,24543.6%56.4%12.7%
Manchester1 of 11,9471,4543,40157.2%42.8%-14.5%
Mansfield6 of 65,6275,96311,59048.6%51.4%2.9%
Marblehead6 of 67,0445,02612,07058.4%41.6%-16.7%
Marion1 of 1000#DIV/0!#DIV/0!#DIV/0!
Marlborough14 of 147,7588,15715,91548.7%51.3%2.5%
Marshfield7 of 76,8657,85414,71946.6%53.4%6.7%
Mashpee5 of 53,8294,2468,07547.4%52.6%5.2%
Mattapoisett1 of 11,9661,8953,86150.9%49.1%-1.8%
Maynard4 of 43,0512,5785,62954.2%45.8%-8.4%
Medfield4 of 43,4433,6937,13648.2%51.8%3.5%
Medford16 of 1612,58813,44526,03348.4%51.6%3.3%
Medway4 of 43,3873,6036,99048.5%51.5%3.1%
Melrose14 of 147,2817,53614,81749.1%50.9%1.7%
Mendon1 of 11,7071,6633,37050.7%49.3%-1.3%
Merrimac2 of 21,8131,6763,48952.0%48.0%-3.9%
Methuen12 of 128,09512,50420,59939.3%60.7%21.4%
Middleborough6 of 65,3025,71411,01648.1%51.9%3.7%
Middlefield1 of 11999329268.2%31.8%-36.3%
Middleton2 of 22,1722,3524,52448.0%52.0%4.0%
Milford8 of 85,4606,96312,42344.0%56.0%12.1%
Millbury4 of 43,0183,5896,60745.7%54.3%8.6%
Millis3 of 32,3592,2884,64750.8%49.2%-1.5%
Millville1 of 17427871,52948.5%51.5%2.9%
Milton10 of 106,6398,62815,26743.5%56.5%13.0%
Monroe1 of 126245052.0%48.0%-4.0%
Monson3 of 32,1192,0554,17450.8%49.2%-1.5%
Montague6 of 62,4831,6264,10960.4%39.6%-20.9%
Monterey1 of 137412850274.5%25.5%-49.0%
Montgomery1 of 127522249755.3%44.7%-10.7%
Mount Washington1 of 1871510285.3%14.7%-70.6%
Nahant1 of 11,1881,0412,22953.3%46.7%-6.6%
Nantucket1 of 13,8012,0295,83065.2%34.8%-30.4%
Natick10 of 109,7748,45118,22553.6%46.4%-7.3%
Needham10 of 108,5737,59516,16853.0%47.0%-6.0%
New Ashford1 of 11203115179.5%20.5%-58.9%
New Bedford36 of 3611,59619,33230,92837.5%62.5%25.0%
New Braintree1 of 129025854852.9%47.1%-5.8%
Newbury2 of 22,5551,8204,37558.4%41.6%-16.8%
Newburyport7 of 76,3824,26210,64460.0%40.0%-19.9%
New Marlborough1 of 160121781873.5%26.5%-46.9%
New Salem1 of 138519958465.9%34.1%-31.8%
Newton32 of 3226,84915,89342,74262.8%37.2%-25.6%
Norfolk3 of 32,7842,7995,58349.9%50.1%0.3%
North Adams5 of 52,8982,5315,42953.4%46.6%-6.8%
Northampton14 of 1411,0204,06315,08373.1%26.9%-46.1%
North Andover8 of 86,7637,97314,73645.9%54.1%8.2%
North Attleborough9 of 96,4087,44913,85746.2%53.8%7.5%
Northborough4 of 44,0614,0848,14549.9%50.1%0.3%
Northbridge4 of 43,1234,2977,42042.1%57.9%15.8%
North Brookfield1 of 11,0451,2872,33244.8%55.2%10.4%
Northfield1 of 19376591,59658.7%41.3%-17.4%
North Reading4 of 43,7994,7428,54144.5%55.5%11.0%
Norton5 of 54,2674,5888,85548.2%51.8%3.6%
Norwell3 of 32,9773,3146,29147.3%52.7%5.4%
Norwood9 of 95,8358,16213,99741.7%58.3%16.6%
Oak Bluffs1 of 11,6451,0102,65562.0%38.0%-23.9%
Oakham1 of 15615681,12949.7%50.3%0.6%
Orange2 of 21,6271,4973,12452.1%47.9%-4.2%
Orleans1 of 12,4621,8844,34656.6%43.4%-13.3%
Otis1 of 152728080765.3%34.7%-30.6%
Oxford4 of 42,7523,6406,39243.1%56.9%13.9%
Palmer5 of 52,3253,1185,44342.7%57.3%14.6%
Paxton1 of 11,1851,3042,48947.6%52.4%4.8%
Peabody19 of 1910,72614,86425,59041.9%58.1%16.2%
Pelham1 of 163422485873.9%26.1%-47.8%
Pembroke5 of 54,5025,0479,54947.1%52.9%5.7%
Pepperell3 of 33,2733,0676,34051.6%48.4%-3.2%
Peru1 of 132014246269.3%30.7%-38.5%
Petersham1 of 145035480456.0%44.0%-11.9%
Phillipston1 of 149344693952.5%47.5%-5.0%
Pittsfield14 of 1410,1338,83018,96353.4%46.6%-6.9%
Plainfield1 of 126611037670.7%29.3%-41.5%
Plainville3 of 32,1102,2124,32248.8%51.2%2.4%
Plymouth15 of 1514,06715,34129,40847.8%52.2%4.3%
Plympton1 of 19038021,70553.0%47.0%-5.9%
Princeton1 of 11,2779812,25856.6%43.4%-13.1%
Provincetown1 of 11,8025002,30278.3%21.7%-56.6%
Quincy30 of 3017,10220,17737,27945.9%54.1%8.2%
Randolph12 of 125,0908,87213,96236.5%63.5%27.1%
Raynham6 of 62,9303,7976,72743.6%56.4%12.9%
Reading8 of 86,5997,34113,94047.3%52.7%5.3%
Rehoboth3 of 32,9483,1216,06948.6%51.4%2.9%
Revere21 of 216,1088,90515,01340.7%59.3%18.6%
Richmond1 of 156530587064.9%35.1%-29.9%
Rochester1 of 11,4961,5133,00949.7%50.3%0.6%
Rockland6 of 63,7094,7358,44443.9%56.1%12.2%
Rockport3 of 32,6501,9534,60357.6%42.4%-15.1%
Rowe1 of 11448723162.3%37.7%-24.7%
Rowley1 of 11,8761,6243,50053.6%46.4%-7.2%
Royalston2 of 240525566061.4%38.6%-22.7%
Russell1 of 140638278851.5%48.5%-3.0%
Rutland3 of 32,0252,3574,38246.2%53.8%7.6%
Salem14 of 149,5339,35818,89150.5%49.5%-0.9%
Salisbury3 of 32,2401,9124,15253.9%46.1%-7.9%
Sandisfield1 of 131013544569.7%30.3%-39.3%
Sandwich6 of 65,7536,36012,11347.5%52.5%5.0%
Saugus10 of 105,6907,54813,23843.0%57.0%14.0%
Savoy1 of 123211835066.3%33.7%-32.6%
Scituate6 of 65,2615,79711,05847.6%52.4%4.8%
Seekonk4 of 43,3803,6186,99848.3%51.7%3.4%
Sharon5 of 56,0824,05610,13860.0%40.0%-20.0%
Sheffield1 of 11,1406271,76764.5%35.5%-29.0%
Shelburne1 of 17733261,09970.3%29.7%-40.7%
Sherborn1 of 11,5701,0192,58960.6%39.4%-21.3%
Shirley1 of 11,5771,4773,05451.6%48.4%-3.3%
Shrewsbury10 of 107,9369,45217,38845.6%54.4%8.7%
Shutesbury1 of 19812421,22380.2%19.8%-60.4%
Somerset5 of 53,9335,6009,53341.3%58.7%17.5%
Somerville21 of 2121,21011,90433,11464.1%35.9%-28.1%
Southampton1 of 11,8221,6133,43553.0%47.0%-6.1%
Southborough3 of 33,1072,5625,66954.8%45.2%-9.6%
Southbridge5 of 52,1954,0186,21335.3%64.7%29.3%
South Hadley5 of 54,1814,3528,53349.0%51.0%2.0%
Southwick3 of 32,2612,4594,72047.9%52.1%4.2%
Spencer4 of 42,3503,0755,42543.3%56.7%13.4%
Springfield64 of 6416,63531,55448,18934.5%65.5%31.0%
Sterling2 of 22,2662,3974,66348.6%51.4%2.8%
Stockbridge1 of 17873511,13869.2%30.8%-38.3%
Stoneham7 of 75,2146,72211,93643.7%56.3%12.6%
Stoughton8 of 85,8187,57413,39243.4%56.6%13.1%
Stow2 of 22,3511,7464,09757.4%42.6%-14.8%
Sturbridge3 of 32,3562,7945,15045.7%54.3%8.5%
Sudbury6 of 65,9924,23910,23158.6%41.4%-17.1%
Sunderland1 of 11,1506801,83062.8%37.2%-25.7%
Sutton3 of 32,4892,7115,20047.9%52.1%4.3%
Swampscott6 of 64,2723,6917,96353.6%46.4%-7.3%
Swansea5 of 53,3254,3527,67743.3%56.7%13.4%
Taunton16 of 168,83912,74021,57941.0%59.0%18.1%
Templeton3 of 31,5732,1273,70042.5%57.5%15.0%
Tewksbury8 of 87,0268,60915,63544.9%55.1%10.1%
Tisbury1 of 11,5988302,42865.8%34.2%-31.6%
Tolland1 of 115211726956.5%43.5%-13.0%
Topsfield1 of 11,9911,9093,90051.1%48.9%-2.1%
Townsend3 of 32,4752,2924,76751.9%48.1%-3.8%
Truro1 of 19874441,43169.0%31.0%-37.9%
Tyngsborough4 of 42,9063,1646,07047.9%52.1%4.3%
Tyringham1 of 115010225259.5%40.5%-19.0%
Upton2 of 22,2171,9294,14653.5%46.5%-6.9%
Uxbridge4 of 43,1513,8517,00245.0%55.0%10.0%
Wakefield7 of 76,1367,75513,89144.2%55.8%11.7%
Wales1 of 150939089956.6%43.4%-13.2%
Walpole8 of 86,0897,60613,69544.5%55.5%11.1%
Waltham18 of 1811,28412,32323,60747.8%52.2%4.4%
Ware3 of 31,9242,2094,13346.6%53.4%6.9%
Wareham6 of 65,0265,55710,58347.5%52.5%5.0%
Warren2 of 21,0421,1662,20847.2%52.8%5.6%
Warwick1 of 127816143963.3%36.7%-26.7%
Washington1 of 12149430869.5%30.5%-39.0%
Watertown12 of 128,8217,08015,90155.5%44.5%-10.9%
Wayland4 of 44,9403,0597,99961.8%38.2%-23.5%
Webster5 of 52,7483,6716,41942.8%57.2%14.4%
Wellesley8 of 87,8476,07713,92456.4%43.6%-12.7%
Wellfleet1 of 11,4887032,19167.9%32.1%-35.8%
Wendell1 of 143410754180.2%19.8%-60.4%
Wenham1 of 11,2151,0932,30852.6%47.4%-5.3%
Westborough5 of 54,4354,2168,65151.3%48.7%-2.5%
West Boylston2 of 21,7752,2784,05343.8%56.2%12.4%
West Bridgewater2 of 21,8192,0363,85547.2%52.8%5.6%
West Brookfield1 of 19649541,91850.3%49.7%-0.5%
Westfield12 of 127,6689,58117,24944.5%55.5%11.1%
Westford6 of 66,4396,16212,60151.1%48.9%-2.2%
Westhampton1 of 16573831,04063.2%36.8%-26.3%
Westminster2 of 21,9482,1854,13347.1%52.9%5.7%
West Newbury1 of 11,5391,1652,70456.9%43.1%-13.8%
Weston4 of 43,8982,4926,39061.0%39.0%-22.0%
Westport5 of 53,8694,2348,10347.7%52.3%4.5%
West Springfield8 of 84,5146,52811,04240.9%59.1%18.2%
West Stockbridge1 of 164121485575.0%25.0%-49.9%
West Tisbury1 of 11,4594671,92675.8%24.2%-51.5%
Westwood4 of 44,1224,5188,64047.7%52.3%4.6%
Weymouth18 of 1811,88615,24927,13543.8%56.2%12.4%
Whately1 of 159634193763.6%36.4%-27.2%
Whitman4 of 43,2204,0907,31044.0%56.0%11.9%
Wilbraham4 of 43,3324,5177,84942.5%57.5%15.1%
Williamsburg1 of 11,1444351,57972.5%27.5%-44.9%
Williamstown3 of 32,5521,0693,62170.5%29.5%-41.0%
Wilmington6 of 65,5596,55912,11845.9%54.1%8.3%
Winchendon4 of 41,8602,1674,02746.2%53.8%7.6%
Winchester8 of 86,5065,80412,31052.9%47.1%-5.7%
Windsor1 of 136614551171.6%28.4%-43.2%
Winthrop6 of 64,0964,3908,48648.3%51.7%3.5%
Woburn14 of 147,88610,46218,34843.0%57.0%14.0%
Worcester50 of 5022,10031,46353,56341.3%58.7%17.5%
Worthington1 of 149021970969.1%30.9%-38.2%
Wrentham3 of 32,9633,2226,18547.9%52.1%4.2%
Yarmouth7 of 76,2117,10413,31546.6%53.4%6.7%
Total2,171 of 2,1721,453,7421,516,5842,970,32648.9%51.1%2.1%


Cameron Testimony in RI

Anita Cameron, NDY’s Director of Minority Outreach, testified to the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee at its Zoom hearing on the state’s assisted suicide bill on Monday, April 26. In a brief two-and-a-half minutes, she shared her mother’s story of a very mistaken medical prognosis as well as opposition to assisted suicide in communities of color.

This testimony is from Not Dead Yet, which includes a video of Anita Cameron testifying.

Testimony of Anita Cameron in opposition to Rhode Island Bill S 775, April 26, 2021

Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the committee. My name is Anita Cameron. I’m Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet. It’s a national disability rights organization opposed to assisted suicide.

So I’m here to express opposition to S775. There are many reasons to oppose this bill and others like it. And here are some:

Number 1. This bill puts disabled, seniors and sick people in grave jeopardy. Doctors often make mistakes when determining people to be terminal. I know, my mother was determined to be terminal, yet survived almost 12 years after that diagnosis. She passed away on February 1st of this year.

Number 2. According to the Oregon report, the top five reasons that people request assisted suicide, which is loss of autonomy, loss of the ability to do activities that brought pleasure, loss of dignity, loss of control of bodily functions, and feeling of being a burden, are disability-related psychosocial issues that have not been effectively addressed, not pain or fear of it as proponents claim.

Number 3. According to various reports, Blacks in particular almost never request assisted suicide, especially if they’re poor. And that’s borne out in a Massachusetts referendum results that show that poor Blacks and Latines and Whites voted overwhelmingly against assisted suicide in that state. And in fact, around the nation, assisted suicide is requested almost entirely by wealthier, educated whites.

So bills like S775 are never safe. And rather than assisted suicide, people need effective treatment for their conditions, and services and support along with options like psychotherapy, palliative care, and palliative sedation. Death should never be an option in healthcare.

Thank you very much.


Kelly Testimony in RI

John Kelly’s Compelling Testimony Opposing Rhode Island Assisted Suicide Bill S0775

John Kelly testified to the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee at its Zoom hearing on the state’s assisted suicide bill S-775 on Monday, April 26, 2021. Members of the public who testified were severely limited in the time allowed, so below is John’s excellent full written testimony, which is well worth the read. This testimony was originally posted at Not Dead Yet.

John B. Kelly
Testimony in strong opposition to S 775
 “Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act”
Judiciary Committee

April 25, 2021

Chair Coyne, Vice Chair Archambault, Members of the Judiciary Committee:

I am the New England Regional Director for Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group that has long opposed assisted suicide. I am also the Director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts: Disability Rights Advocates against Assisted Suicide.

Like all assisted suicide bills, S 775 puts people in danger of premature death. That’s because deadly mistakes and abuse are impossible to prevent, and the harm – wrongful death – impossible to reverse.

The bill is also divisive, putting the wishes of the wealthier, whiter classes of people above the objection of other communities. Black and Brown communities overwhelmingly oppose legalized assisted suicide, as do working-class white people. People who already receive later and less care will more likely be written off as having a low “quality of life” when they have the same symptoms that prompt more privileged people to seek assisted suicide.

The response to COVID-19 has laid bare the racism inherent in our broken medical system, such as the case of Michael Hickson, a black Texan quadriplegic with COVID-19, who was refused treatment because of his “quality-of-life.”

INSURERS: The bill, despite its promise of “end-of-life options,” ultimately takes choice away from people. That’s because real choice resides with insurers, whose profit-maximizing denials of prescribed treatments can make you terminal. Because assisted suicide is always the cheapest “treatment” available, it encourages insurers to reject traditionally covered treatments. That’s already happening in states where assisted suicide is legal.

Nevada Dr. Brian Callister reported a few years ago that two of his patients were denied routine treatments with 70 percent cure rates by their respective California and Oregon insurance companies.  They would only pay for hospice and assisted suicide. Shortly after assisted suicide became legal in California, Stephanie Packer, a young mother with scleroderma, was denied her prescribed treatment but learned that her assisted suicide copay would be $1.20.

MISTAKES. In 2014, CBS News reported that physician misdiagnosis affects 12 million Americans yearly, putting half at risk of severe harm. Studies show that 12%-15% of people who enter hospice outlive their six-month prognosis.

In its 2020 report, Oregon finally acknowledged the numbers of people who outlive their six-month terminal prognosis. In 23 years, 77 people or 4% of the total people with prescriptions have outlived their prognosis. That means that another group of people, probably more than 100,* cut short their lives out of misplaced trust in their doctors. That 4% figure happens to match the percentage of people sentenced to death who are innocent. That’s one of the main reasons that people oppose capital punishment. If those people’s lives are valuable enough to cause people to reject capital punishment, an even greater percentage of people who lose good years of their lives to assisted suicide should be reason enough to stop the practice.

TV star Valerie Harper was told incorrectly she had months to live because of brain cancer in early 2013. Yet Harper was nowhere near her “end of life.” If, based on the false information given to her, Valerie had exercised her “right” to aid in dying, she could have lost 6 good years of her life, which included starring in a play. She lived until the fall of 2019.

ABUSE: This committee should be skeptical when assisted suicide proponents talk of ideal, loving families, not when our news is full of the deeds of abusive, even murderous families and “friends.”

If S 775 passes, abusers and criminals will be offered a no-questions-asked opportunity to engineer someone’s death. Especially vulnerable will be the 10% of Rhode Island elders estimated to be abused every year, almost always by adult children and caregivers.

The Associated Press reported in 2013 that Oregon realtor

Tami Sawyer also faces charges of criminal mistreatment and theft as a result of a state charge that she stole more than $50,000 after a man [Thomas Middleton] who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease moved into her home, named her his estate trustee, deeded his home to a trust, and then died by physician-assisted suicide.

We have no idea how Thomas Middleton really died, but we do know that days later, Sawyer listed Middleton’s property and then stole some of the proceeds. Her crimes came to light, not through any program safeguards, but by a federal investigation into suspicious real estate transactions. The state did not bother to pursue its charges.

Suspicious circumstances like Middleton’s are not included in the Oregon reports. Even when there is evidence of abuse, Oregon has taken no action.

For example, Wendy Melcher died after being given massive doses of barbiturate suppositories by two nurses, one of whom was having an affair with Wendy’s partner. The nurses claimed that Wendy had requested assisted suicide, but she wasn’t even enrolled in the program! Nor did Wendy self-administer.

Yet instead of referring the nurses to authorities for criminal charges, the state nursing board secretly suspended one nurse’s license for 30 days and placed the other on two years “probation.” It took a reporter’s phone call years later to inform Wendy’s devastated family that she had been killed. It seems that the very existence of the assisted suicide law turned evidence of a serious crime into an excusable mistake. The Portland Tribune editorialized, “If nurses — or anyone else — are willing to go outside the law, then all the protections built into the Death With Dignity Act are for naught.”

Despite these examples and more, professional proponents continue to falsely claim that there hasn’t been a single instance of abuse in all the states practicing assisted suicide.

DISABILITY. As you will hear from both proponents and opponents of this bill, people do not make decisions in isolation. That’s especially true when people become disabled due to illness and need physical assistance from other people. When people do not have access to paid in-home caregivers, they are susceptible to feeling like a burden. Indeed, prescribing Oregon physicians reported last year that over 50% of program deaths stem in part from feelings of being a “burden on family and friends/caregivers.”

Proponents are always saying that the initiative must come from the patient, but let’s be real: if prescribing a deadly overdose is a beneficial “medical treatment,” doctors and nurses and family are going to be suggesting it.

Oregonian Kathryn Judson wrote of bringing her seriously ill husband to the doctor.  “I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought),” she wrote.  “To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. ‘Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her’ he said, as a clincher.”

A belief common among people thinking of suicide, whether “conventional” or assisted, is that their deaths will benefit others. The writers of S 775 pretend that as long as someone can “understand or appreciate the relevant facts necessary to make an informed decision,” they do not have “impaired judgment.”

The writers of the bill ignore the reality of depression, which does indeed impair judgment.
As Massachusetts mental health advocate Ruthie Poole has testified,

Those of us in MPOWER are very familiar with the insidious nature of depression. As a therapist once told me, depression does not cause black and white thinking; it causes black and blacker thinking. Absolute hopelessness and seeing no way out are common feelings for those of us who have experienced severe depression. Personally, as someone who has been suicidal in the past, I can relate to the desire for “a painless and easy way out.” However, depression is treatable and reversible. Suicide is not.

A lot of hearing testimony will describe deaths in which pain was not properly treated, but proponents have begun admitting that the emphasis on pain and suffering is a marketing ploy, because as leading assisted suicide practitioner Lonny Shavelson has said, “It’s almost never about pain.” Like Shavelson, former radio show host Diane Rehm emphasizes that assisted suicide is really about “dignity.”

Shavelson and Rehm both point to the Oregon reports, whose first five “end-of-life concerns” deal with “existential distress” (New England Journal of Medicine) over the disabling aspects of their serious illness, from depending on others for care to grief over lost abilities, loss of social status, incontinence, and feeling like a burden.

These reasons suggest a meaning of dignity that depends not on everyone’s inherent worth, but on an ability-based meritocracy. This sort of dignity is fragile and easily lost through disability.  The people whose suicides are informed by these views, proponents admit, tend to be wealthier, whiter, more educated, and people with a strong preference for control.  Their desire to hold onto this privilege must not justify a pro-suicide public policy that endangers everyone else.

The lives of non-terminal” disabled people share many traits with people requesting assisted suicide, but we reject as bizarre and dangerous the notion that personal dignity is somehow lost through reliance on others. That’s why for 50 years the disability rights movement has insisted on funded programs to provide necessary personal care attendant (PCA) services for all disabled people, including people disabled by their serious illness.

S 775 would set up a two-tier system, under which some people get suicide prevention services while others get suicide assistance. The difference between the two groups would be based on value judgments about so-called “quality of life.” Many of us already get told, straight to our face and through medical hostility, that we might be better off dead. Legalized assisted suicide makes that prejudice official policy.

That’s why every leading national disability rights group that has taken a position on assisted suicide has come out against it.

Let’s make sure that people have the choice and supports to live pain- and burden-free at home. As you consider S 775, please think about Rhode Island residents, elders and disabled people – including people disabled by their serious illness – who may be vulnerable and without the sort of support and control assisted suicide proponents take for granted, innocent people who will lose their lives because of this bad social policy.

Invidious quality-of-life judgments have no place in state policy. Please reject this bill and the discrimination it promotes. Thank you.

* Since studies show that 12%-15% of people who enter hospice outlive their six-month prognosis, the 4% who actually waited to take the lethal drugs and outlived their prognosis significantly underestimates the number who could have outlived their prognosis if they had similarly waited.

John B. Kelly
66 Fenway APT 22
Boston, MA 02115


Health care, not “death with dignity”

Opinion piece from the Connecticut Post by Joan Cavanaugh, April 1, 2021.

State needs health care, not “death with dignity”

Anyone who has been with loved ones facing serious, painful illness will empathize deeply with the testimonies in Ed Stannard’s Sunday, March 21 article. I have. And I do.

But as an anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-choice, human rights advocate who has been compelled to fight attempts by the medical system to restrict and withhold treatment, I also contend that there is a much larger picture to be considered. As a society, we must make decisions to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us, not place them in further danger. The relevance of these considerations is repeatedly ignored or denied by the proponents of bills such as HB 6425, currently before the Connecticut state Legislature in another attempt to make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for their patients.

Specific provisions of HB 6425 are problematic in themselves: among others, the mandate that doctors lie about the cause of the patient’s death, listing the underlying illness only, not the ingestion of the lethal cocktail; the removal of qualifying restrictions from previous bills regarding who can serve as witnesses to the patient’s written request; and the fact that the primary care physician and the “consulting” physician can now share a practice. But the bill must also be viewed in its larger context.

The New York Times Magazine reported on May 3, 2020, that the slogan of Compassion and Choices, which avidly promotes this legislation nationwide, found its way onto a sign at a “You Can’t Close America!” super-spreader event for Trump supporters last spring in Austin, Texas. The faulty premise of “My life, my death, my choice,” present at that rally and in this legislation, is that individual decisions are made in a vacuum without impact on the larger community. While it may offer “choice” for the few, medical assisted suicide is an existential threat to the many.

Medical practitioners already pronounce judgment on a patient’s “quality of life” based upon personal preferences and prejudices combined with institutional mandates and insurance company imperatives to slash costs. The underlying social Darwinist mentality is never acknowledged, but the telling phrase “death with dignity” is often used, suggesting that the care required by many who are disabled, elderly or seriously ill demeans them and burdens caregivers and society. This repudiation of our human connection and responsibility to each another lies at the core of these bills, which contain the seeds of abuse, neglect and coercion.

To deny this and to dismissively state that we are “fighting a battle we don’t need to fight” is insulting and belittles the lived experiences of those who have been forced to constantly struggle against the medical system to get needed care for ourselves or our loved ones. My mother was a Medicare/Medicaid patient who suffered from dementia in her later years. I was browbeaten and harassed by many of her providers and other medical personnel who wanted me to “let her die.” Along with their pious mantras about “quality of life” and “death with dignity,” I was also told point blank by hospital administrators that they could not “afford” to keep treating her.

The longstanding, ugly reality of health care rationing for certain populations was made publicly visible by the COVID crisis: poor, disabled, elderly, Black and brown people already face lethal discrimination. How can proponents of medical assisted suicide now possibly doubt that it would morph into the only option available to those for whom potentially life-saving treatment is pronounced “futile” or deemed too expensive for hospitals and insurance companies to sustain? As a now-elderly person whose only insurance is Medicare, I do not want my cost-effective death, couched in someone else’s view of my diminished “quality of life,” to become the preferred (or only) “treatment” I am offered. Would you?

People coping with the pain and stress caused by a serious illness or disability are too often also forced to fight the medical system to get the care they need, if they even feel empowered to do so. When you have experienced this or witnessed it, you know it is as searing, heartbreaking and terrifying as the experiences described in Stannard’s article.

It would be unconscionable to introduce medical assisted suicide into this environment.

Instead of debating the merits of a bill to allow our doctors to kill us, the state Legislature must craft legislation to provide equitable, comprehensive and full treatment for everyone who wants it, including much improved palliative care (when freely chosen and needed.) These measures — not poison cocktails — are the way to move forward.

Joan Cavanagh lives in New Haven.

MA News News

Telegram and Gazette – Letter: State legislators should reject assisted suicide bill

Nurses reject assisted suicide bill

Telegram & Gazette

March 25, 2021

As registered nurses, we urge state legislators to look at the facts and reject Massachusetts assisted suicide bill.

Despite what the authors of a recent letter to the editor claim, uncontrollable pain does not even make it into the top five reasons that people choose assisted suicide. Based on data from Oregon, the state where assisted suicide has been legal the longest, the reasons that people choose assisted suicide include: decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable, loss of autonomy and loss of dignity. These serious concerns are all existential or disability-related that ought to be treated with appropriate care, not death.

The medical community is also resoundingly opposed to the practice of assisted suicide. The American Medical Association reaffirmed its opposition to assisted suicide because, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” The World Medical Association is also opposed to assisted suicide. As medical professionals, our role is to heal, not to hasten death.

Assisted suicide is a dangerous public policy that targets the most vulnerable in society: the terminally ill, people with disabilities, and the elderly. The so-called “safeguards” in assisted suicide laws are ineffective. Having surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, it’s shocking that our legislature is considering institutionalizing premature death now. Instead of working to make death more accessible, we strongly urge our state legislators to expand access to quality medical care and treatment options.

Sandra A. Kucharski, MS RN, Worcester

Kathleen M. Lake, RN, West Boylston

Carol E. Johnston RN (ret), Worcester

Diane M. Smith RN (ret), Oakham


We Need to Talk About Choice

New Zealand has the End of Live Choice Act. This video outlines very clearly the dangers of this act, and would be the same dangers for our physician assisted suicide proposals. The pressures outlined are ones that people with disabilities are already very familiar with.

Unfortunately, this act passed in a binding referendum vote in October of 2020, and will be put in place in November of 2021. You can read more about the act:

MA News News

Opinion in the Telegram and Gazette

Opinion: Assisted suicide cannot be regulated, ripe for abuse and coercion

November 18 by William Almeyda Jr. (senior pastor of the New Life Worship Center in Worcester) and his wife, Elise Almeyda

“Any moral society has a duty and a responsibility to protect and defend the vulnerable and the marginalized. But the assisted suicide legislation some Massachusetts lawmakers are considering is a dangerous public policy that threatens the most vulnerable in society: the elderly, people with disabilities, and the terminally ill.  

Now in the midst of a global pandemic, the focus of legislators should be on ensuring that quality medical care is available to every Massachusetts’ resident, rather than making death more accessible. Assisted suicide cannot be regulated, is ripe for abuse and coercion, fails to address patients’ existential concerns, and is overwhelmingly opposed by the medical community. I urge our Massachusetts’ legislators to consider the deadly threat that legalizing assisted suicide would impose on our most vulnerable residents and to reject this policy”…. Read the whole article in the Telegram and Gazette.

Events Information News

Debate on Physician Assisted Suicide

Debate between John B. Kelly and Thaddeus Pope on September 30, 2020: Assisted suicide is currently legal in ten jurisdictions in the United States: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine (starting January 1, 2020), New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Efforts are underway in many other states (including Minnesota) to enact similar laws. Watch this Hot Topics: Cool Talk video clip for a spirited but civil conversation about such laws between two advocates who take opposing views on this issue.

From Terrence J. Murphy Institute at the University of St. Thomas

Assisted Suicide: It’s All about Disability

by John Kelly:

Proponents of assisted suicide laws have insisted for years that assisted suicide has nothing to do with disability, when a glance at the reported “end of life concerns” in Oregon showed those concerns to be all about people’s psychological distress over the disabling aspects of their serious disease.

As one example, lead Massachusetts proponent of the assisted suicide ballot question in 2012, Dr. Marcia Angell, told radio station WBUR that “This has nothing to do with disabled people, nothing whatsoever… It’s fine for them to take whatever position they want to. But they have no special standing.”

On September 30, Director of Second Thoughts MA John B. Kelly engaged in a two-hour debate on assisted suicide with Thaddeus Pope, the Director of the Health Law Institute at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law. During a segment discussing a question from a Massachusetts disabled man who would want to use assisted suicide because of feelings around incontinence, Pope and Kelly had the following exchange.

Referring to the Oregon reports, Kelly said that assisted suicide laws are “all about disability. All the reasons are about disability.” Pope replied, “Well, I mean, they are. I mean, that’s worth conceding, I think.… So everybody who’s using medical aid in dying is disabled. And probably you could go to the next step and say the reason they want medical aid in dying is because of their disability.”

He concludes that “I guess the key thing is that’s their judgment, right? Some people would say, ‘I find this condition intolerable.’ Other people won’t.”

Kudos to Thaddeus Pope for his honesty!

Now if other proponents can be equally as honest, we can have out in the open the outrage of declaring some people are “better dead than disabled.”

Second Thoughts MA and the national disability rights group Not Dead Yet argue that disabled people deserve equal protection under the law regarding suicide prevention services.

The transcript of the video clip follows.

Thaddeus Pope: It’s a framing question. Is the State of Massachusetts thwarting, is it getting in the way or is it facilitating? All he wants is for the State of Massachusetts to get out of the way. He’s not asking for affirmative support or anything like that. He just says, just decriminalize it. Because as of now, the state government of Massachusetts has inserted itself between him, this questioner, and his physician. And all he wants is for the state to get out of the way. John Kelly: I would say that, you’ve turned that on its head. The state gets involved by approving of the person’s reasons for wanting to die, and giving the doctor immunity by prescribing this. Now, if someone wanted to die because they felt that extraterrestrial beings were assaulting them and trying to kill them, well, they probably wouldn’t be seen as rational. But as long as the formulation that it’s rational for a person to feel lack of dignity over incontinence, then we are instituting massive prejudice against people who live with those conditions. That seems self-evident to me and I don’t understand how people can say, “oh, it has nothing to do with disabled people.” When it’s all about disability. All the reasons are about disability.

Moderator Lisa Schiltz: Thaddeus.

Thaddeus Pope: Well, I mean, they are. I mean, that’s worth conceding, I think. I mean his diagram, the two Venn diagrams, everybody who’s terminally ill probably is definitionally disabled. So if you have metastatic terminal cancer, you’re disabled. So everybody who’s using medical aid in dying is disabled. And probably you could go to the next step and say the reason they want medical aid in dying is because of their disability. It’s because of the cancer or the side effects or the conditions from the cancer. So that’s a true statement, but I guess the key thing is that’s their judgment, right? Some people would say, “I find this condition intolerable.” Other people won’t.

John Kelly
John Kelly
Thaddeus Pope
Information News Uncategorized

The case against medical aid in dying

The case against medical aid in dying: Insurance firms, doctors and Hollywood among those accused of pushing ‘assisted suicide’

Interview with John Kelly and Dr. Brian Callister. Opponents to the end-of-life option express concern about the unintentional abuse the laws can create for the terminally ill and disabled.

Read the whole article at the Independent. We have included some of the article below, but the link also has some helpful maps on the status of legislation in different states.

Thursday 22 October 2020 by Danielle Zoellner.

“The expansion of medical aid in dying across the United States has not only created a professional and moral dilemma for practicing physicians, but it has also raised concerns within the disability community, among others, about the negative consequences these laws could have on the country.

John B Kelly, the New England regional director for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group focused on opposing medical aid in dying and euthanasia legislation, has become a vocal opponent to the passing of these laws.

“I myself am paralysed below my shoulders,” Mr Kelly told The Independent. “So I get to see a barrage of better-dead-than-disabled messages, as carried in such by films like Me Before You, Million Dollar Baby, etc.”

Laws relating to medical aid in dying add to this “better off” messaging, Mr Kelly said, because they create the perception that personal autonomy should be regarded above anything else. Once that autonomy is taken by a terminal illness, people sometimes think that their life is no longer worth living.

“When we look at the reported reasons for assisted suicide out in Oregon in 2019, it’s all about autonomy,” Mr Kelly said.

Oregon’s annual data showed that 87 per cent of patients who used the end-of-life option in 2019 reported a loss of autonomy as one of their main reasons. About 90 per cent said decreased ability in participating in activities that made life enjoyable was another key reason, and 72 per cent said a loss of dignity impacted their decision.

“These bills depend on a view that people with severe disabilities, and that includes people who are ‘terminally ill’, have such a low quality of life that they’re better off dead,” Mr Kelly said. “What these bills say is that this is a personal benefit, a social benefit. And so when people are given a pass to commit assisted suicide because of their disabilities, well, then those same views will be applied to people who are outside of an assisted-suicide situation.”

Another concerning statistic, Mr Kelly said, is the 59 per cent of people in Oregon who listed an end-of-life concern as being a burden to family members, friends, and caregivers.

“People are very susceptible to others,” he said, “and when everyone around you thinks things would be better if you were dead, well that’s going to encourage people.”

“I sympathize with people who suddenly become disabled … but that’s where we help people. We make sure that people know that they’re valued and they’re just as much of a full human being as they have ever been. It’s tragic to see people wanting to die because of shame and humiliation.

Medical aid in dying has a variety of different terms people use to describe it – including assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, and physicians aid in dying. Proponents of the legislation use terms like medical aid in dying and physicians aid in dying because the law puts the person’s terminal diagnosis as the cause of death, not the prescription drug they took.

“Suicide, even for sympathetic reasons, is still suicide,” he said. “The way these bills are written is that one must self-administer [the drug] … people are supposedly put in control of how they live their lives. So not to call it assisted suicide is just an exercise in euphemism.”

Denial of coverage

Oregon became the first state to pass its Death with Dignity Act, which allows a person 18 years or older with a terminal prognosis of six months or less to receive a prescription drug that would end their life. The requirements to utilise this law include the person being mentally fit, physically able to self-administer the drug, and for two doctors to sign off on the terminal prognosis.

Since Oregon passed the law in 1997, other states have followed suit. Now the end-of-life option is available in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.

Dr T Brian Callister, a board certified internal medicine and hospitalist specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, told The Independent that the passing of end-of-life laws could limit other people’s access to care.

“What happens is that your choice for lifesaving treatment is going to be limited by the fact that the insurance companies now have a cheaper option,” Dr Callister said. He cited two cases where he sent one patient to Oregon and another to California for treatments.

“They both had serious illnesses but would not be terminal with treatment,” he said. “In fact, each patient would be curable 50 to 70 per cent of the time with treatment.”

The patients were denied care from their insurance companies and instead offered the end-of-life option, Dr Callister said.

Another case involving health insurance problems often brought up between proponents and opponents of medical aid in dying is what happened to 64-year-old grandmother Barbara Wagner.

The Oregon woman was reportedly denied coverage for her lung cancer treatment drug by the Oregon Health Plan, a Medicaid program. Instead, the Oregon Health Plan said in a letter it would cover end-of-life options, including palliative care and medication under the state’s Death with Dignity Act. Ms Wagner appealed the denial twice before the drug company producing the lung cancer treatment offered her the drug free of charge. She died three weeks later.

Opponents have said this situation proves the dangers of health insurance companies choosing the “cost-effective” route when caring for patients.

Proponents have said Ms Wagner was denied because of the drug’s “limited benefit and very high cost”, according to Death with Dignity, a nonprofit advocating for end-of-life options like medical aid in dying. The nonprofit claims “cost of end-of-life treatment” is never considered under these laws – a claim difficult to prove or disprove given the bureaucratic nature of health insurance companies.

“What happens to the prescription drugs that aren’t used?”

End-of-life laws also rely on a physician’s ability to give a patient a terminal prognosis of six months or less, an estimate Dr Callister said is often inaccurate.

“I can tell you firsthand, a physician’s ability to predict life expectancy in terminal illness is often not accurate at all,” Dr Callister said.

In a 2016 systematic review of various studies looking into prognostic accuracy, it found accuracy by doctors spans from 23 to 78 per cent. In addition, survival estimates tend to range in three months shorter from the doctor’s prognosis to three months longer.

Oregon’s 2019 annual data summary found that 188 people took the prescription medication to end their life after requesting it through their doctor. Of those 188 people, 18 of them had received the medication in previous years, proving how patients can sometimes live past their terminal prognosis of six months or less.

“What really concerns me, though, is what happens to the prescriptions that aren’t used? These are obviously deadly drugs and roughly one-third of these prescriptions go unused,” Dr Callister said.

Once a patient receives the prescription from their local pharmacy, there is no requirement for a healthcare professional to be present when the medication is taken by the patient. In 2019, 290 people received prescriptions under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, but only 188 actually took the drug. Of the 290 people, 62 recipients of the prescription decided not to ingest it and subsequently died from other causes.

“There’s no mechanism for tracking that these are in medicine cabinets somewhere,” Dr Callister claimed.

Since these medications fall under the category of a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act, they are under federal statutes. This means the medication must be taken by whomever it was prescribed to and people could face criminal prosecution if it’s taken by someone else.

States like California, for example, require people who have custody of “unused aid-in-dying drugs” to “personally deliver the unused aid-in-dying drugs for disposal by delivering it to the nearest qualified facility that properly disposes of controlled substances” or dispose of it by “lawful means in the accordance with guidelines promulgated by the California State Board of Pharmacy.”

Physicians and pharmacists are also required to report prescribing and selling the medications to patients, but the law does not require additional follow-up once the patient has possession of the drugs.

Another requirement under the end-of-life laws is for two physicians to sign off that a patient has a terminal prognosis. Physicians are allowed to opt out of assessing a patient for an end-of-life option, as they might believe it goes against the oath they took to save lives.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) has  reiterated that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” Dr Callister said, referencing a 2016 opinion piece published by the AMA on the subject matter.

The AMA’s House of Delegates voted in June 2019 to maintain the organisation’s long-held opposition to the end-of-life option.

“It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress — such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness — may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good,” the AMA wrote in its opinion piece.

Despite its staunch opposition to the laws, the state AMA chapters of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all have moved into a neutral position.

A 2018 Medscape survey of 5,200 physicians across the US found that 58 per cent agreed medical aid in dying should be available to terminally ill patients, which was up 12 per cent from 2010. Additionally, 74 per cent of Americans think the end-of-life option should be available, according to a 2020 Gallup poll.

Impact on suicide across America

Although patients are required to be mentally fit when applying to take the prescription, concern has mounted on if the safeguards in place actually prevent those who suffer from depression or mental health problems from utilising the law.

In Oregon, for example, only one patient was referred psychological or psychiatric evaluation in 2019. This number is consistent with all of Oregon’s data since the law was enacted, with a vast majority of patients never receiving a mental health evaluation. 

“If you’re terminally ill, it is quite reasonable to understand that you’re going to go through all kinds of feelings, including grief feelings, and the chance of you becoming clinically depressed is certainly going to be higher than if you weren’t terminally ill,” Dr Callister said, emphasising the importance for these patients to be clinically assessed before accessing end-of-life options.

“Being depressed is a natural part of what we will call a reactive grief,” he added. “We have to look at from a public policy perspective and ask if there is a suicide contagion that comes with legalised assisted suicide.”

Oregon’s suicide rate per 100,000 residents was 16.03 per cent in 1998 and has since risen to 19.6 per cent in 2019. People dying under the Death with Dignity Act are not included in these figures. 

The national suicide rate has also risen in that time period, from standing at 11.12 per cent per 100,000 people in 1998 to rising to 14.2 per cent in 2018. 

It would be difficult to determine how much Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act has played into the rise of the state’s suicide rate, but the rate is 35 per cent higher than the national average, according to a study by the Oregon Public Health. 

Coercion and abuse

Ultimately the largest concern brought up against the passing of these laws is coercion on the part of the physician, insurance companies, or patient’s family members and friends that could convince someone to take the medication.

Proponents have argued there are limited reports of abuse in all states with the end-of-life-option. But with healthcare professionals present during less than one-third of these deaths plus few patients being referred for psychiatric evaluations, the proponents claim is shrouded in uncertainty.

Kathryn Judson, an Oregon resident, wrote a letter to the editor in the Hawaii Free Press in 2011 to explain her opposition to the passing of medical aid in dying.

“When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought),” she wrote.

“To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. ‘Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her’ he said, as a clincher.”

She saw the conversation as coercion on the part of the physician, and she and her husband, David, sought out a different doctor about their options for his illness. David lived an additional five years after that interaction.

“I think despite the best intentions to alleviate suffering, these laws are creating horrible, negative consequences,” Dr Callister said. 

He advocated for focusing on improvements to palliative care, hospice care, and social services for patients over passing end-of-life laws. 

“We don’t need these laws … because we can control your symptoms at the end of life,” he said.