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Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act: Framing the issue


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The Massachusetts "Death with Dignity" Act is an initiative petition for a law to be submitted for approval or disapproval by the voters of Massachusetts on the November 2012 ballot. This petition allows a Massachusetts adult resident, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness that will likely result in death within six months, to request and receive a prescription for a lethal drug to end his or her life. If passed, the petition would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Two physicians need to determine the terminal diagnosis, the mental state of the patient, and that the patient is acting voluntarily. The patient must make two oral requests within no less than fifteen days of one another. A written request is also required with a minimum of forty-eight hours between the written request and the writing of a prescription for the lethal drug.

The first step in the initiative petition process has been accomplished. Supporters of the bill submitted over 86,000 certified signatures, more than enough to lay the petition before the legislature. It is likely that the legislature will not take action on the petition and that supporters will obtain the approximately eleven thousand additional signatures necessary to place the petition on the ballot in November.

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