Tito Gambarini & Jaime Alvarez: Support death with dignity

  • Pioneer Valley Death with Dignity Director John Berkowitz speaks at a press conference called to highlight support for 'The End of Life Options Act.' STAFF PHOTO/Bera Dunau

Published: 9/28/2018 8:18:51 AM
Support death with dignity

We are two elders — one a retired doctor at age 96, the other a retired professor at 78 — and we’re writing in support of Massachusetts passing a Death with Dignity law as seven other states plus Washington, D.C., have done, as well as Canada, Colombia, and Holland.

We are cancer survivors, facing it again now, and we want medical and compassionate aid in dying, to be a legal option for us and others in our state to ensure a peaceful and dignified death.

We both had fulfilling lives and are at peace with our eventual departure. We’ve seen too many patients, and many friends and loved ones, die with great pain and suffering, despite the wonderful efforts of hospice and palliative care to alleviate it.

Before I (Dr. Gambarini) retired, I was a surgeon at a Catholic hospital in Hartford. I often saw the compassion of doctors who applied what was called “the silent palliative treatment” — increasing the morphine dose to mitigate the patient’s pain at the end of life.

My wife died of advanced ovarian cancer seven years ago, she experienced terrible pain, and I asked her doctor and my fellow physician to end her pain, and he did so. But I also know that most patients and their families are not doctors like me, and so often they don’t receive the same treatment.

A majority of Massachusetts doctors voting last December at the annual meeting of the Mass. Medical Society ended their long-held opposition to Death with Dignity, and adopted a new official position of “engaged neutrality.”

If the Massachusetts Legislature passed the bill known as The End of Life Options Act (H1194), many doctors would choose to help their terminally ill and mentally sound patients, participate in it by prescribing medication for them to take, resulting in a painless death in their sleep.

We urge our fellow citizens to join us in contacting our state legislators and candidates running for the Legislature about this issue, and asking them to pledge their support to help pass the Death with Dignity bill in 2019.

Dr. Tito Gambarini, MD
Easthampton

Dr. Jaime Alvarez V. Ed.D.
Northampton




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