Katherine J. Atkinson: Urges approval of End of Life Options Act

Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Urges approval of End of Life Options Act

I applaud the Gazette’s Dec. 30 editorial in favor of passage of the End of Life Options Act, which would give Massachusetts citizens who are terminally ill and mentally capable the option of a peaceful, humane death should they so choose.

I have been in practice as a family physician for over 20 years and have cared for many patients at the end of their lives (prior to that I was a registered nurse in oncology and hospice). Most patients do not opt to hasten their death but many have expressed the desire to have that option.

Loss of control is the most terrifying aspect of reaching the end of life. I would like the ability to have these discussions with patients and their family members without putting my hard-earned medical license in jeopardy. The time has come for a more open-minded and holistic approach to the end of life.

As a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s House of Delegates, I was one of a majority of doctors whose views on this issue have changed over recent years, and who prevailed at the December meeting to end its opposition to medical and compassionate aid in dying, and adopt a new position of “engaged neutrality.”

Physicians in Massachusetts want to be open to listening to the needs and desires of our patients and not have a top-down approach of telling them what to do.

Please join me in contacting Rep. Kate Hogan (617-722-2130, kate.hogan@mahouse.gov) and Sen. Jason Lewis (617-772-1206, jason.lewis@masenate.gov). They are the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Health that will discuss and vote on this bill (H1194) by Feb. 7.

I would be proud and glad to have my state pass this law and become the seventh, along with the District of Columbia, to offer the option of death with dignity for those who would choose it.

Katherine J. Atkinson


The writer is a doctor with a family practice in Amherst.