The Legislature’s Joint Public Health Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday next week on the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act. The bill in essence would allow medical aid in dying, giving physicians the option of ending a patient’s life in the face of certain and difficult death.
Dr. Roger Kligler of Falmouth hopes citizens will pack the 600-seat auditorium in a strong show of support.
Death is a difficult subject for many; Dr. Kligler has been working hard over the last several years to bring the subject of physician-assisted death to the fore.
Dr. Kligler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002 and it has spread throughout his body. But it is not only himself he has in mind. In 2015 he addressed a general forum sponsored by Cape Cod Healthcare and spoke of the need for research and education about end of life care and when medical treatments should be stopped. “As a physician I have seen a lot of people go down the road too far,” he said.
In 2016 Compassion & Choices, a national organization based in Colorado, filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of Dr. Kligler and Dr. Alan Steinbach of Woods Hole to obtain an injunction protecting physicians from prosecution for assisted death.
Since then he has been talking with neighborhood groups, clubs, faith organizations—anywhere and anytime he can—about the need for the legislation that is finally making its way through the state Legislature.
There is ample precedent. California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington all have authorized medical aid in dying. There is a good deal of support for it in Massachusetts.
Nevertheless, a strong showing of support on Beacon Hill next week will help.
It is not assisted suicide; it is compassionate care for patients who wish to die with grace and dignity.