“It is time we became pro-choice at the end of life,” writes Lewis M. Cohen, and Massachusetts’ Death With Dignity Act, poised to pass on Election Day, could finally make that happen. The ballot question, if approved, could “turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm,” Cohen writes in a moving Slate piece on the right-to-die movement. Because Massachusetts is home to the leading medical publication and hospital in the US—not to mention four prestigious medical schools—a death with dignity law there would be “a crucial milestone” for the movement; other states are already considering similar laws.
Cohen traces the right-to-die movement back to the 1980s, of course mentioning Dr. Jack Kevorkian, “the bad boy of medicine” who showed off his end-of-life technology on national television. But then Cohen turns his attention to Cody Curtis, who was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in 2007, and Dr. Kate Morris, who helped her when she made the choice to end her life after the disease progressed. “Perhaps it takes the dramatic actions of a flawed advocate like Dr. Jack Kevorkian to catalyze change that leads to the appearance of more reasonable and likable physician reformers.” Curtis, Dr. Morris says, taught her physician that “‘first, do no harm’ is different for every patient.” Doctors like her, Cohen writes, realize the importance of “respect for patient autonomy” above all else. Click for his full piece.