New Beacon Research Poll Shows Support From Every Demographic; Legislative Sponsors Optimistic of Passage

Just days before she died of pancreatic cancer last year, Dorchester resident Laura Johannes urged Massachusetts to support Death with Dignity so that other dying patients can have the end-of-life option she was denied.

Massachusetts citizens agree, with a 73%-16% majority supporting legislation to allow medical aid in dying, according to a poll released today by the End of Life Coalition Massachusetts. Conducted by Beacon Research, the poll showed support in every demographic group tested.

Pollster Chris Anderson, president of Beacon Research in Boston, laid out the results alongside a group of legislators’ sponsoring the Massachusetts medical aid in dying bill. Sen. Joanne Comerford, and Reps. James O’Day and Ted Phillips are lead sponsors for the 2023 session.

From the poll summary report: 

“…after reading a brief description of what the bill would do—specifically, it would provide mentally sound, terminally ill adults the option to get a prescription for medication they could decide to take to die peacefully—nearly three-quarters of voters support legalization.

Sizable majorities of every demographic group favor legalization, including:

77% of voters under age 45 and 74% of seniors. 

Seven-in-ten voters in every region of the state support the bill, as do voters

across the political spectrum: 79% of Democrats, 71% of unenrolled voters, and 68% of Republicans. 

Over two-thirds of Catholics (68%) and Protestants (71%) back the measure, as do a similar number of those living with a disability (68%).

A similar poll conducted by Anderson in 2012 showed 63% support.

“For dying and suffering patients, this legislation cannot come soon enough. In past hearings, many patients like Laura asked for this relief, and many of them died painful deaths that were clearly not of their choosing,” said Dr. Peg Sandeen, CEO of Death with Dignity, a national organization based in Oregon where the first Death with Dignity law was passed 28 years ago. 

Laura Johannes was one of those patients. In a video recorded shortly before she died, Laura said, “As I am dying… I have no control over the manner of my own death. And that is making it harder for me to enjoy friends, family, and loved ones who surround me in my final days. I urge all of you to support medical aid in dying so that other Massachusetts residents can have options.” 

“With ever-growing and overwhelming support from the public, and strong leadership from this Legislature, now is the time to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation,” said Dr. Peg Sandeen, CEO of Death with Dignity. “For over a decade, we’ve worked in Massachusetts to bring this option to terminally ill patients. The results in Oregon and the ten other jurisdictions with Death with Dignity laws in the U.S. have shown it has been implemented with care, caution, and compassion.”

Similar to the other states, the Massachusetts bill requires that a patient must be diagnosed with a terminal disease within six months of death, the same standard used for hospice care. The diagnosis must be confirmed by a second physician. The patient must be capable of making healthcare decisions and acting completely voluntarily. The patient must self-administer the medication.

Companion legislation in the House and Senate both have been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health. Co-sponsors include 58 House members and 18 Senators. A hearing is expected in June.

The End of Life Coalition Massachusetts is a collaboration between Massachusetts Death with Dignity, Compassion and Choices, and the Death with Dignity National Center. Other members include ACLU MA, American Atheists, and Compassionate Care ALS.