Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dignity & the Importance of the Conversation

By a narrow margin, Massachusetts voters on Tuesday decided against making it legal for a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient wishing to control the timing and circumstances of their death.
Is this decision a defeat or a victory? The answer probably depends on your personal definition for a death with dignity.
For the Community Voices in Medical Ethics, it is a defeat only if the conversation about compassion in end-of-life care ends with the election result. And it is a victory if this is only the beginning.
In researching the Death With Dignity Act, Community Voices and the citizens of its Community Ethics Committee came to no consensus, no simple yes or no, on the advisability of Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life.
What we did agree on was the extraordinary value to patients of palliative care services; we fully support the movement in Massachusetts and elsewhere to increase the role and influence of the palliative speciality.  
We also agreed that the conversation about how we die is of tremendous, transformative importance: in the doctor-patient relationship, among families, and for our society. 
The commonwealth has two great resources for keeping the conversation going: the thoughtful work of the Massachusetts Expert Panel on End of Life CareAnd the Conversation Project
Massachusetts narrowly rejected a ballot measure on Tuesday. But we didn’t reject compassion for the dying. 


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