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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

MA Voters May Take Up Physician-Assisted Suicide

Published November 4, 2011 10:52 AM by Stacey Miller

Next year, Massachusetts may become the fourth state in the U.S. where physicians can assist terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

In 2012, residents will likely get to vote on the Massachusetts Death and Dignity Act. If passed, the Bay State will follow in the footsteps of Montana, Oregon and Washington where such laws exist. Similar legislation is being considered in Hawaii and Vermont, while residents voted against physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Maine and Michigan.

In order for the initiative to make its way to voters' ballots next November, the original petitioners need 70,000 signatures before the end of this month. Already with more than 80,000 supporters, the group is aiming for 100,000 signatures to solidify support, according to The New York Times.

If passed, the law will allow physicians to write prescriptions of lethal medication to adults with 6 months or less to live. Under the law, 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.

By giving patients this right, the Dignity 2012 group asserts patients will be given "dignity, control, and peace of mind during their final days with family and loved ones."

What do you think? If you live in a state without a PAS law, would you support one? Do you think PAS should be an end-of-life option for patients who choose so? Share your thoughts.

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