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Massachusetts

Current Status

The Massachusetts End of Life Options bills were introduced in the Senate (S. 1384) by Senator Joanne Comerford (D), and in the House (H. 2381) by Representatives James O’Day (D) and John Mahoney (D) on February 8, 2021. Follow progress on our legislative tracker.

Resources

Find more state actions here.

Massachusetts State Legislature website

History

2020

  • Sponsored by a total of 67 State Senators (20) and Representatives (47), S.1208/H.1926, the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act, advanced from the Joint Committee on Public Health on May 29, 2020, in an amended version, S.2745 / H.4782. The bill awaited a vote in the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing until the end of December, but did not advance.

2019-2020

S1208/S2745

  • Introduced on January 14, 2019
  • Companion bill: H1926, sponsored by Representative Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton)
  • Full text of S1208, the End of Life Options Act (2019)
  • Legislative history of S1208
  • Sponsored by Massachusetts State Senator William Brownsberger (D-2nd Suffolk and Middlesex)
  • Co-sponsored by 18 Massachusetts State Senators and 18 Massachusetts State Representatives (see below)
  • Referred to the Committee on Public Health
  • Passed favorably from the Committee on Public Health to the Committee on Health Care Financing, where the bill eventually succumbed to Joint Rule 10 during the pandemic. It was reported out “ought not to pass” on December 29, 2020

H1926/H4782

  • Introduced on January 22, 2019
  • Companion bill: S1208, sponsored by Senator William Brownsberger.
  • Full text of H1926 (2019)
  • Legislative history of H1926
  • Sponsored by Massachusetts State Representative Louis L. Kafka (D-8th Norfolk)
  • Co-sponsored by 13 Massachusetts State Senators and 40 Massachusetts State Representatives

2017-2018

Massachusetts State Representative Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton), together with 44 co-sponsors, introduced H.1194, An Act Relative to End of Life Options, on January 27, 2017. Massachusetts State Senator Barbara L’Italien, with 11 co-sponsors, introduced a companion bill in the state Senate the same day (S.1225).

Both bills were referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health. A hearing for the two bills took place on September 26, 2017.

The Committee extended the reporting (vote) date for H.1194 to June 30, 2018 and for S.1225 to March 22, 2018. The Committee subsequently on March 26 sent the Senate bill and on June 13 the House bill to study, effectively ending their chances of passage in the 2018 session.

The 2017-2018 session was the eighth time a death with dignity bill was under consideration in the Massachusetts legislature.

Endorsements

In December 2017, the Massachusetts Medical Society rescinded its opposition to “physician assisted suicide” and adopted a position of “neutral engagement” on the issue (see more here and here).

2013-2016

Representative Kafka introduced similar bills in

  • 2015: H.1991, the Massachusetts Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act, with 39 co-sponsors. The bill received a hearing in the Joint (House and Senate) Committee on Public Health on October 27, 2015. In June 2016, the Committee recommended the end-of-life option bill be sent for further review, which effectively rendered the bill done for the year.
  • 2013: H.1998
  • 2012: H.3884
  • 2011: H.2233

None of these bills moved out of Committee.

2012

In 2012, Death with Dignity National Center campaigned in Massachusetts for Question 2, a ballot initiative to pass a death with dignity bill. While polls showed 58 percent of state residents supported the ballot question about this end-of-life option, the measure lost narrowly 51 to 49 percent.

Pre-2012

Physician-assisted dying bills were also considered in 1995 (H.3173), 1997 (H.1543), and 2009 (H.1468).

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