An Interview with Massachusetts Dignity 2012

Massachusetts State House by notafish on Flickr
Massachusetts State House by notafish on Flickr

There have been a number of recent developments in the Death with Dignity movement. When I was in Massachusetts last week, I took a moment to sit down and chat with Michael Clarke, the Campaign Director at Dignity 2012, to get the latest news on their efforts. Read more about the work they’re doing and what you can do to help citizens of a third state learn more about important end-of-life options proposed in the Death with Dignity Act initiative.

Peg Sandeen from Death with Dignity National Center: What’s the goal of Dignity 2012?

Dignity 2012: Dignity 2012 is working to pass a Death with Dignity law, similar to the laws in Oregon and Washington. We’re focused on a ballot initiative effort to present the question to the voters on the November ballot. As you know, this is the same process which was used to pass the laws in Oregon in 1994 and Washington in 2008.

PS: How has the reception been so far?

Dignity 2012: We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response from people across Massachusetts who believe terminally ill patients deserve greater control over their end-of-life care. Hundreds of volunteers and donors have signed up to help with the effort. These decisions are deeply intimate and personal, and belong in the hands of individuals, not the government.

The proposed initiative gathered more than 84,000 signatures from voters for the initial qualification phase for which we only needed about 69,000 to move forward. After achieving that first step, the initiative was then put before the State Legislature for consideration and received a hearing. The next step in this process started yesterday when we filed the documents to request the petitions to put Dignity on the ballot.

PS: What’s the next step?

Dignity 2012: The state constitution requires the petition to travel through the legislature where it is today. They had until May 1st to act on the petition but that didn’t happen. Now the petition has entered its next phase when we’ll need to collect about 20,000 more signatures by the end of June to put the question on the ballot in November.

PS: You mentioned more than 84,000 voters signed the petition. Why do you need to collect more signatures?

Dignity 2012: Massachusetts has two rounds of required petition collection: one in the fall to qualify the petition to be delivered to the Legislature and the second in the spring to place the initiative on the ballot as a question.

PS:How much time do you have to gather signatures? When is the deadline?

Dignity 2012: It’s a very short timeline. We’ll have fewer than 6 weeks to collect 20,000 signatures. The deadline to file all of the signatures is June 20.

PS:What’s the process for collecting signatures?

Dignity 2012: The process is complicated. Petitions must be hand signed by voters and a different petition sheet must be used for each town. So, people who live in different towns have to sign different sheets. Each of those sheets will have to filed with the local town Clerk’s office. The Town Clerk will check every signature and disqualify anyone who isn’t registered to vote in that town. The petitions then have to be picked up by the campaign and filed with the Secretary of State. Consider the state has 351 towns and cities, this requires a lot of work.

Collecting the signatures takes a lot more than a couple hundred people standing on street corners. We have to mail out thousands of petition sheets, provide return postage, get the petitions to the 351 Clerks, pick up the petitions, and file them with the Secretary of State, all in just 39 days. Because volunteers only have so much time to give over a 6 week period, we also have to hire workers to help collect signatures. All together, we estimate this process will cost somewhere between $85,000 and $100,000.

PS: How can people help?

Dignity 2012: Please visit our site,, for details. There are several ways people from all over the US can help, and here is how you can make the biggest difference:

  1. Donate – Without generous gifts from people who want to see Death with Dignity laws enacted, we wouldn’t even be able to mail out a single petition.
  2. Volunteer – If you live in Massachusetts or know someone who does please help Dignity 2012 with this huge signature-gathering stage. After you make a donation (hey it’s going to cost us money to get you the supplies) dedicate time to collect signatures from your family, friends, and coworkers.

Thank you so much, Michael, for helping our readers learn so much about everything Dignity 2012 is doing to allow Bay Staters the possibility to decide what’s best for them in their final days.

View full post on Death with Dignity National Center

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