(WGGB/WSHM) -- Local advocates of death with dignity are speaking up, hoping to bring awareness to a new bill is working its way through the State House.
It’s called the End of Life Options Act and would allow terminally ill patients more freedom when it comes to their health care.
They are hoping that it’ll be voted on before the legislative session ends.
“To allow people to have the option of avoiding severe pain and suffering at the end of their illness,” said John Berkowitz, director of Western Mass. Death with Dignity.
That is the option that advocates with Western Mass. Death with Dignity are pushing for with a state bill called End of Life Options Act. The bill is currently in the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing, awaiting votes from both the House and Senate.
“This is something that’s been needed and that’s why people are fighting for these laws for over 30 years,” Berkowitz added.
If passed and Governor Charlie Baker signs it into law, Massachusetts will become the tenth state to allow terminally ill patients the freedom to choose what’s known as “medical compassionate aid in dying.”
“It’s a national phenomenon…it’s growing. Canada passed it nationally, not just for one state or province,” Berkowitz explained.
Berkowitz told Western Mass News that the likelihood of this passing in the Bay State has never been higher.
“Both senators - Senator Eric Lesser and Senator Jim Welch - are sponsors of this bill…and many state rep…Carlos Gonzalez, Bud Williams, Brian Ashe from Longmeadow…many, many people are supporters,” Berkowitz noted.
This act has been introduced for the past ten years, but this is the first time it passed in the Joint Committee on Public Health.
If everything goes according to plan and it passes through the Ways and Means Committee, the bill will be on its way to the House by July 31 and voted on this fall.
“The bill doesn’t force anyone to do anything. If it’s completely a matter of personal liberty, I can’t really see a strong argument against it,” said Dr. David Clive.
While this issue received push back as a ballot option in 2012, Clive explained why he’s in support of the bill.
“I think it’s really a matter of personal choice and personal liberty. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions on how they conduct the end of life…Also, as a physician, I don’t believe that it’s against the ideals of the profession, which is to relieve suffering and provide comfort,” said Clive.