To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Heller School student argues for medical aid in dying in recent op-ed

On Feb. 26, 2023, Brandeis Heller School student Ilana Fitzpatrick (GRAD) had an opinion piece published in the Metrowest Daily News. Fitzpatrick argued in the article the importance of the End of Life Options Act, using personal anecdotes as to why the act’s return is important for the dignity and bodily autonomy of terminally ill individuals.


In 2020, as noted in Fitzpatrick’s article, the End of Life Options Act was voted down in the Massachusetts state Senate. The bill, originally introduced in 2019, would have offered the opportunity for terminally ill individuals to access medical aid in dying, which would be contingent on a number of factors. But this act would have allowed individuals who met its requirements to end their lives on their own terms, instead of succumbing to their terminal illnesses. 


With the recent introduction of a similar bill proposing medical aid in dying once again, Fitzpatrick stresses the importance of giving terminally ill people this option. “Death with dignity acts do not replace palliative care; rather, they expand patient options, allowing them to cope with their death, say their goodbyes and pass in their own way,” writes Fitzpatrick in her opinion article. Additionally, Fitzpatrick clarified the difference between suicide and medical aid in dying, highlighting how the legislation articulates mental health as a factor that should not be driving the person’s decision to access medical aid in dying.  


Fitzpatrick wrote in the article that this topic is personal to her, as her grandfather had a “neurodegenerative disease” and because of this, he was suffering and saw a “grimmer future.”  Fitzpatrick’s grandfather wanted the option of medical aid in dying but was unable to access it in the state of Massachusetts due to the failure of the previous bill. She wrote that “he had a beautiful send-off,” that was unnecessarily “tainted by the trauma incurred in the days following” due to the lack of a peaceful option regarding his passing. 


According to Fitzpatrick’s article, a Suffolk University study determined that 77% of Massachusetts residents support medical aid in dying, and other states have passed similar bills promoting dignity in death. 


Fitzpatrick concludes her article stating that “death is a natural component of the life cycle, and yet our western culture has prioritized length of life, at times at the expense of quality.” 


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