Thursday, October 4, 2012

Death With Dignity

Last night, I had the privilege of representing the MA Chapter of NASW at a neighborhood forum on the 2012 Death with Dignity ballot initiative. The Board of Directors of the MA Chapter had voted this spring to support this Initiative and now Chapter staff and NASW members are speaking throughout the state representing the Social Work Perspective on Death with Dignity. The NASW Code of Ethics, as well as the NASW Public Policy statements, outlined in ‘Social Work Speaks’ clearly advocate for individuals’ right to choose the decisions that affect their lives. These include: respect for clients’ self- determination; the right of individuals to direct their end-of-life care; helping individuals identify the end-of-life options available to them and the right to choose.

The opponents of this Initiative talked about possible abuses that included coercion of family members, possible discrimination against people with disabilities or the aging population and sinister motivations of insurance companies to push for ‘death’ rather than provide for treatment. I came to feel that the individuals present at the forum were indeed worried and fearful that they may be the victims of unscrupulous abusers of the Initiative if it becomes law. I can appreciate peoples’ fears regardless of how irrational they sound. And still I came away from the event feeling more committed to the wisdom of this bill. It is consistent with all of social work’s values, standards, principles and ethics. I am including the basic elements of the Initiative below for readers as well as the website for additional detailed information.

Key facts about Death with Dignity Initiative:

• Protects the right of individuals to make voluntary and informed decisions about end-of-life care

• Expands end-of-life care options for terminally ill patients

• Respects and upholds the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship

• Contains strict safeguards to ensure that the patient is making a voluntary and informed decision

To access more information about this Initiative, please visit

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