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Western Mass. lawmaker to introduce bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill

Massachusetts state Sen. Joanne Comerford, D-Northampton.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Massachusetts state Sen. Joanne Comerford, D-Northampton.

A western Massachusetts lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in January that would allow a physician to prescribe medication to help a terminally ill person die. The Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled the state constitution does not protect a doctor who does so.

While the court ruled against physician-assisted suicide, it left open the possibility for the legislature to explore the issue.

State Sen. Joanne "Jo" Comerford, D-Northampton, said she will sponsor a bill in the New Year that would allow someone with a terminal diagnosis of six months or fewer to work with a physician and receive medicine to hasten their death.

Comerford has held hearings on similar legislation in recent years.

"I heard from many constituents about the importance of this bill to them, to their loved ones personally, and then more as a matter of principle," she said. "People believe that we should have options for the end of life."

A statewide poll conducted last spring found that almost 80% of residents believe a mentally sound adult who has an incurable terminal illness should be allowed to get help from a doctor to die.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.

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