Right now, Six states and the District of Columbia all have "right to die" legislation in place. Now, the new law about to go into effect in New Jersey will make them the 7th state to have it (read the story from NBC News, HERE). In Massachusetts, we are usually at the forefront of much-needed changes like this. But not this time. Here in Mass, even if we are terminally ill, we don't have the right to choose to die on our own terms. I truly believe that every single person should have this right.
If you don't want to exercise that right, then, by all means, don't. But for those of us that would like the choice, I 100% believe that we should have it. I deal with this every day. I see clients with dementia, who are so far gone that they really aren't living any kind of life at all. I have seen proud men and women, many of them veterans, lose their ability to speak, and sometimes talking only in gibberish. These were once smart, intelligent, proud, funny people, and this terrible disease has reduced them to a mere shell of themselves. For many of them, their life expectancy isn't longer than six months, because eventually, they lose their ability to eat, their ability to swallow, and their organs begin shutting down. I watched my own grandfather fall deeper and deeper into this disease until he wasn't himself anymore. I can honestly say that I NEVER want my wife and kids to see me that way. NEVER.
I know that if I am faced with a terminal diagnosis like this, I want to go out on my own terms. When I don't recognize my babies anymore, then I don't want to be here anymore. I want my children to remember me as a smart, funny, sometimes too short-tempered, but always caring, father. A man who went to work every day so he could provide for them. Someone who they can say they are proud to call their dad. And I know they would still be proud of me, even if I forget who they are, and who I am, but the thing is, I wouldn't be proud of myself anymore. I don't want their last memories of me to be just a shell of who I once was. I want to decide for myself. And I don't think anyone else has the right to decide for me, and tell me, if I am terminal, that I cannot end my life. I would much rather say goodbye to them, while I am still me. Why can't I choose to "go out with my boots on"?
So what are our options here in Massachusetts? For now, we have to try and move to another state if we get a terminal diagnosis. But many of these laws have residency requirements, meaning that you must live in that state for a certain amount of time, before the "Right to Die" law applies to you.
So what else can we do? Right now, there is a bill in the Senate and the House called the End of Life Options Act (see the text of the Bill Here). This Bill was introduced by Massachusetts State Senator William Brownsberger (D-Suffolk), on January 14, 2019. We don't know yet how that Bill will play out. Read more about its status here, on the website for a group called Death with Dignity. They are urging those in favor of this bill to send an emailed letter to your legislators, expressing their support. The process is very simple (I did it already) and you can do the same here if you want.
I want this choice. I want it for my clients, my family, and myself. Give me the right to make the choice, and let me decide whether or not I want to exercise it. Don't force me to die in a slow, agonizing, undignified fashion. We can do this for our pets, to keep them from suffering, but not for ourselves. Don't we deserve the same rights as our dogs and cats? I think we do. I believe in God, and I believe each person has a soul. But I don't believe that anyone has the right to make our stay here and suffer. I support this Bill. If you do too, I urge you to go to the website and express your support. It's the only way things will ever change.