WILLIAMSTOWN -- A local grassroots committee is seeking to educate area voters about a ballot question dealing with giving the terminally ill the means to die on their own terms.
Kathy McKnight, who is one of 16 residents on the ad hoc committee, said Monday during a public presentation Monday that the proposed Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act is something people should know about and have time to consider before voting on Nov. 6.
"This is a very important issue, and it’s going to sneak up on us," she said. "There is a lot of education that needs to be done between now and the sixth of November, and a lot of thinking."
The Death with Dignity Act was put on the state’s November election ballot as Question No. 2 by means of citizen’s petition. It’s modeled after laws passed in Oregon and Washington that allow physicians licensed in those states to prescribe medication to end a terminally ill patient’s life at their request.
In an effort to educate people about the ballot question, the local committee is holding two public presentations about the Death with Dignity Act being proposed for Massachusetts. The first of those conversations was held Monday afternoon at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Park Street. A second "community conversation" will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at St. John’s.
Committee member Rachel Tarses said there are a lot of protections written
"I don’t think we have to be as afraid of it as many myths may lead us to believe," she said to about 40 people gathered in the church’s hall Monday.
Included in the committee’s presentation on the ballot question was the trailer of a documentary film titled "How to Die in Oregon," lists of key facts and safeguards in the proposed law, the story of a daughter whose terminally ill mother used Oregon’s law to end her life, and an interview broadcast on WGBH Boston featuring two doctors on either side of the issue.
McKnight said Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that has the Death with Dignity Act ballot question this year.
"There is going to be a lot of money [from different groups] coming into the state both for and against this. You’ll probably start seeing things in October," she said.
She encouraged those attending the presentation to continue to education themselves about the proposed law and to talk to others about it.
"This is a controversial and very personal issue. It takes into account people’s religious beliefs and cultural norms," she said.
Further information about the Death with Dignity Act is available at dignity2012.org, deathwithdignity.org and compassionandchoices.org. A copy of the ballot question is available at the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website.
To reach Meghan Foley, email email@example.com.