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Medically vulnerable need compassion, not death, speaker says


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BOSTON -- The word compassion is taken from the Latin compati, which means "to suffer with."

Putting people "out of their misery" under the guise of helping them is not compassion, attested Wayne Cockfield. He urged those gathered at Massachusetts Citizens for Life's annual Assembly for Life, held at Faneuil Hall on Jan. 22, to oppose legislation that would legalize doctor prescribed death.

"Medical abandonment is not compassion," he said. "Dying is not dignified. What we need for devalued people is living in dignity."

The legislation, called the Death with Dignity Act, is a citizens' initiative petition that has garnered more than the required number of signatures. The state legislature has until May to choose whether or not to act on the proposal before it would appear on Massachusetts' 2012 ballot.

Proponents say the measure would give patients greater peace of mind, choice and control in their final days of life. The legislation permits individuals who are given six months or less to live to receive life-ending drugs. The law would require that two doctors verify the mental competence of patients and that there be a 15-day waiting period between the request for and writing of the prescription.

Cockfield, from South Carolina, said such legislation targets the "medically vulnerable," who include the elderly and disabled.

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