Renewed debate on ‘death with dignity’ issue

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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A terminally ill California woman is single-handedly re-igniting the controversial debate on doctor assisted suicide in Massachusetts.

People told 22News they think a right to life inherently includes the right to end your life when you choose.

Years after the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the debate of doctor assisted suicide continues. 47-year-old Christy O’Donnell of California has cancer and only months to live. She can’t tolerate morphine.

“No one really likes to suffer,” said Denise Boyer of Easthampton. “I’ve had a lot of death in my family for different illnesses and I’m a firm believer that if someone is ready to just pass on, let them.”

Back in 2012, voters here in Hampshire County overwhelmingly approved the Massachusetts death with Dignity Act which would have allowed physician assisted suicide, but overall the measure failed by a narrow margin of 49% to 51%.

A new bill filed in February could put the issue back in the spotlight. Northampton Attorney James Winston told 22News this proposal includes safeguards the other did not.

“Before a person would be able to take the medication there would have to be two witnesses that basically sign off that the person understands what they are doing, which under the old law there was no witness verification,” said Winston.

The new bill would also mandate mental health counseling.

“I think it’s the compassionate thing to do,” said Amie Combs of North Hadley. “I also think the healthcare industry spends a ridiculous amount of money keeping people alive when they are not necessarily happily alive.”

Right to die has been approved in Oregon and Washington. The only New England state to have such a law is Vermont.

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