Tuesday, July 31, 2012

State legislative victories: one huge and one very satisfying

The last six weeks have been extremely busy on Beacon Hill as the legislature planned to finish on July 31st. Probably the most extensive work has been done on the health care cost containment bill.

In the bill was language that sounded quite fine, requiring the doctor to give a patient with a terminal illness all end of life options. The legislators were delighted because that meant everyone would hear about Hospice and palliative care.

What they just didn't notice was that, if the "Death with dignity act" passes in November, doctors would be required to offer patients doctor-prescribed suicide. The only other group who was concerned was the disability rights community. We wrote letters and made no impact. Then the pro-life constituents of the members of the Conference Committee started calling their members expressing concern. What an impact!  

As the calls progressed, the members started to see that there really was a problem with the bill. As a result of those calls, the following wording was passed, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a healthcare professional to offer to provide information about assisted suicide or the prescribing of medication to end life."

This language will protect lives and save the conscience rights of doctors. We won't have a situation like that with the HHS Mandate: trying to play catch-up.

It is important to note this was due completely to pro-life people making the calls.

Another bill, which affects fewer people but also saves lives and is  really nice to have, was passed in June with MCFL support.

State Representative Tom Sannicandro, whose son David has Down syndrome, sponsored and got passed:

"An Act Relative to Down Syndrome Genetic Test Results," modeled on the national Kennedy-Brownback bill, is the first state legislation of its kind in the nation. The new law requires the Mass. Department of Public Health to make available to medical providers the latest, culturally-appropriate information about what it means to have a child with Down syndrome and contact information for services to ensure parents have access to necessary supports. The legislation specifically identifies MDSC's Parent's First Call Program as a key resource for families, formally recognizing our signature outreach program, a national model in the field."

Remember that 90% of the unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Remember also that we have heard from countless parents who said they welcomed their baby but would have liked more information on what to expect. Now Massachusetts has the first such state law in the country.

GO, MA! Thanks to all of you, especially the constituents of the Conference Committee members who made calls - you know who you are! Anne

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