Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen is the subject of an extraordinary editor’s note that reveals he helped facilitate the physician-assisted suicide of a terminally ill woman he was writing about. Cullen and photographer Jessica Rinaldi documented the death of Lynda Bluestein, a Connecticut woman who traveled to Vermont to take advantage of that state’s so-called “aid in dying” law.
Cullen describes a meeting with Bluestein and Dr. Diana Barnard, a Vermont physician who was helping Bluestein with the process. Present at the meeting were Cullen and members of a team that was making a film. “At one of the meetings in July with Barnard,” Cullen writes, “Lynda asked a Globe columnist [see editor’s note] and also a member of the documentary team following her story to sign the form saying she knew what she was doing and wasn’t under duress.” Cullen agreed to sign, which prompted this editor’s note from the Globe’s executive editor, Nancy Barnes:
From the editor:
The right to die has long been a controversial issue in many societies, and especially in some religious communities.
Last year, Globe reporter and columnist Kevin Cullen and photographer Jessica Rinaldi set out to chronicle Connecticut resident Lynda Bluestein on her mission to die on her own terms in Vermont, which has a “medical aid in dying” provision. Our intent was not to advocate for this issue, but to share an important perspective and a very personal, albeit wrenching, story.
Vermont’s law required two witnesses to sign a form attesting that Bluestein was in a clear state of mind when she made this decision, and they could not be family members, doctors, any beneficiaries, a nursing home owner or employee, etc.
Bluestein, with the support of her doctor, asked two people who were with her on July 10 to attest to this for her. Reporter Kevin Cullen was one of those people and he agreed to do so — a decision Cullen regrets. It is a violation of Globe standards for a reporter to insert themselves into a story they are covering. That it was intended primarily as a gesture of consideration and courtesy does not alter that it was out of bounds.
After reviewing these details, we have concluded that this error did not meaningfully impact the outcome of this story — Bluestein died on Jan. 4 and she likely would have found another signatory in the months before then. For that reason, we chose to publish this powerful story, which includes exceptional photojournalism, while also sharing these details in full transparency.
Boston Globe executive editor
This is not the first time that Cullen has run afoul of the Globe’s ethics policies. In 2018, he was suspended for three months following an investigation that determined he had fabricated details about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings in radio interviews and at public appearances. A review of his work for the Globe revealed no problems beyond a few minor errors of fact.
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