“People would grab her hand and ask, ‘Would you do something to end my suffering?’ I grew up with this as a core part of my upbringing. I knew my grandmother felt helpless because she couldn’t do anything to help them, and it was hard on her,” she said.
When she began working with dying patients, Robinson was surprised by how many also asked her, “Why can’t I end my life?” she said. She remembers one patient told her, “You wouldn’t put a dog through this.”
“People are really scared about the last stages of dying, when you are helpless and you cannot do it yourself. I think we have an individual right to take control of our life,” she said, adding the final decision should not be left to the government or doctors or even the family.
In Oregon, terminally ill patients have legal access to this step and many people obtain but never use a lethal prescription, Robinson said. People often choose to live once the option to die on their own terms has returned a sense of control and dignity to them, she said.
State Representative Louis Kafka, a Stoughton Democrat who has pushed a “death with dignity” bill to establish similar prescription access to lethal drugs, said this ballot question is about people with a terminal diagnosis wanting the right to make a choice. His own efforts were inspired by Stoughton resident Al Lipkind, who advocated for such legislation for years before dying of stomach cancer in 2010.
“It would not be an easy choice. But people want to be able to consider it. And I don’t disagree with that,” said Kafka, who plans to vote yes on Question 2.
On the ballot, Question 2 is labeled “Prescribing Medication to End Life” and summarized by the state attorney general for voters, who are told a “yes” vote would “enact the proposed law allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life.” A “no” vote would “make no change in existing laws.”
Meg Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.