Ballot Initiative of the Day: Massachusetts Debates Physician-Assisted Suicide

Supporters call Massachusetts’ Question 2 the Death with Dignity Act. Opponents call it physician-assisted suicide.

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Supporters call Massachusetts’ Question 2 the Death with Dignity Act. Opponents call it physician-assisted suicide. The proposed law would allow doctors to prescribe medication to end a patient’s life if he or she is mentally sound, expected to die within six months and wishes to hasten their own death.

Polling suggests the proposal is likely to pass. A University of Massachusetts poll found voters to be in favor 65% to 19%, while a Public Policy Polling survey reported support outpacing opposition 56% to 30%. Opponents say the polls can’t be trusted because the issue did not earn much public attention until the last few weeks.

Despite its lead in the polls, Question 2 is facing a late onslaught from the opposition. The Roman Catholic Church—a powerful institution in Massachusetts—has come out against the measure, as has the Massachusetts Medical Society. “Laws that sanction physician-assisted suicide undermine the physician-patient relationship, which is based on the patient’s trust that the physician is working for the patient’s health and welfare,” says Richard Aghababian, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “The proposed safeguards against abuse are insufficient, as data verification and oversight are not included in the proposal.”

Opponents also note that predicting the end of life within six months is not always accurate and that other options are available, such as palliative care and hospice.“It’s a flawed ballot question that lacks the safeguards needed to protect people at a very vulnerable time – when they’ve received a bad diagnosis,” says Mark Horan, a spokesman for the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide. “Under this question, you could obtain a lethal prescription without ever seeing a mental health professional, without consulting with a palliative care expert, and without talking to a family member.”

If physician-assisted death passes, Massachusetts would become the third state to legalize physician-assisted death. Washington voters approved a similar measure in 2008, nearly two decades after their first attempt, and Oregon made it legal in 1997. The Montana Supreme Court ruled to protect doctors who assist patients in death in 2009, but the ruling did not officially make physician assisted-death legal. Voters have turned down similar ballot propositions in Maine, Michigan and California. Physician-assisted death is explicitly criminalized in 34 states.

23 comments
LokHupBaFa
LokHupBaFa like.author.displayName 1 Like

Oregon has this law , and is audit often by organizations that oppose it....and they have found nothing , except that the quality of end of life care in Oregon has improved.  The quality of pain management is now one of the best in the country. That the majority of people who get the lethal prescription, never take it....but the knowledge that it is there and they can control the decisions about their end of life brings them great comfort.

It is one of those conterintutive things, when abortion is legal, there are less of them - then when it is illegal.  When sucide is legal for the terminal ill, few of them will actually use it, the knowedgle that it is their choice, and their life's most important decisions are not being taken from them, makes it easier to continue their lives.

Some day people will learn the greatest evil is trying to impose your will on other peoples decisions on sex, gender and death.   That by doing what they consider morally or religiously right, they create more harm and death then by doing nothing.  

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

Catholicism has always been interested in head count,at all costs, not in quality of life. I would like to see the Mass. act go national.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer like.author.displayName 1 Like

Three years ago, my father-in-law was hospitalized at the Atlanta VAMC with aspiration pneumonia. He was intubated and put on a respirator without our permission. He survived, but his life has been living hell ever since. I am 66, and I have no intention of living out my days in a state like his. If a physician-assistant suicide law is available to me when life is no longer worth living, I will avail myself of it; if not, I plan to take matters into my own hands. Our medical system has become very good at prolonging death; not so much at prolonging life.

margaretdore
margaretdore

The proposed Massachusetts act is a recipe for elder abuse.  Under the proposed act, an heir, or another person who will benefit from the patient's death, is allowed to talk for the patient during the lethal dose request process. 

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight over administration, not even a witness is required.  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or other benefiting person, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?  The lethal dose request would provide the alibi.

For more information about how the proposed act works, see www.massagainstassistedsuicide.org

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

@margaretdore Again you are talking about a form of abuse that may not ever occur even after decades of implementation... and that is damn fine because how many will be helped via this legislation outweighs the two persons that may or may not be hurt after 50 years of this implementation.

Also as a nurse I can tell you that inevitably struggle almost always shows. You are thinking like we live in the world of cheap detective novels.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

How noble and inspiring you opponents are to euthanasia. 

I wonder what the relative of a dying person must think of you after having to witness their loved one's suicide by gunshot to the head.

How holy and just you must feel to force dying people to actually experience the sensation of being forced to put a loaded gun's barrel in their mouths and begin to squeeze that trigger because even one more day of agony is too much to bear despite medication.

Ever have a kidney stone? Did pain medication actually do any real good for you because I know it did jack diddly for me... and i wasnt dying of illness via the rotting of my body from the inside out.

Opponents of Euthanasia fit either two molds: either they have been brain washed by ancient holy scripture written by people living in mud huts shaking from "God's wrath" during an earthquake. The second type of opponent has a head full of hot air rather than moldy literature and they too inevitably are inflated by pompous righteousness while being ignorant of the suffering they force upon people at gunpoint because of a false morality.

Both types of person are willing to grant mercy to a dog rather than a dying man or woman whom wishes for death. It takes either a person suffering the illness of too much faith or the illness or immaturity of thought.

susanbanthony
susanbanthony

@Hadrewsky  

You sound like a healthy man in full possession of his wits. Can you empathize with a nursing home resident who is half out of her mind with medications and who is being pressured by a Kevorkian-type crusader to sign up for assisted suicide? Or can you empathize with a person who is depressed after receiving word of his terminal cancer and in that state asks his doctor (who is a dermatologist with no mental health training) for death pills?

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@susanbanthony @Hadrewsky 

I dont think you will find much of either type of doctor out there doing these kind of scripits because they want to protect their careers... And if we want to use wits about it we use cost benefit analysis: More people would be helped than hurt via this legislation.

European countries with such doctors are not reporting many instances of abuses to the system at all.

akpat
akpat like.author.displayName 1 Like

Its your life you should be able to do with it as you wish. Why would someone with a painfull disease that cannot be treated be forced to go on longer than they wish just because some church or other  wants them to.

There is all together far to much interference by churches in social matters where they always know what is best for one.

That is why rape is now ok. To much religion and not enough common sense.

MrObvious
MrObvious like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'm kind of interested in the scientific reasoning why individuals cannot decide whether or not they want to live or die. It's amazing just how little influence religious people want the government to have over them but how often their religious notions are suppose to guide all of us through legislation.

susanbanthony
susanbanthony

@MrObvious  

Oh, you mean like the laws against stealing? I suppose you think there shouldn't be any such laws since one of the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament declares stealing is wrong and forbids it. It's just a "religious thing."

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

@susanbanthony @MrObvious 

Harm of self is the person's choice..... stealing hurts all of us while the decision to die is the choice of the person and it should be illegal for the nutjobs out their sticking their religious brain-washed dogma into everything.

The ten commandments involve mostly religious policy rather than morality as religion protects itself always before it will you.

You silly religious wieners would rather a dying man suffer unto his last breath than OMG A SUICIDE OH NO! Gramps might rot in Hell! Oh dont bother me that my idea that an afterlife even exists is insupportable without consulting the musings of a 3000 year old Goat Herder's wisdom!

So yea.... Keep your religious BS out of other people's lives and decisions!

susanbanthony
susanbanthony

Last Monday (10/22) 17 Boston area religious leaders issued a joint statement opposing this assisted-suicide measure. They included a bishop from the Anglican Diocese in New England, a pastor from the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, the Islamic Council of New England, the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, the Islamic Institute of Boston, the Salvation Army, other Protestant church representatives, and, yes, even Roman Catholic leaders.

So much for the knee-jerk "Catholic Church controls everything" rant! Assisted suicide or other forms of euthanasia are only legal in two US states and three small European countries. Why? Because the great majority of religions and secular societies consider it wrong.

Punatic
Punatic

@susanbanthony So ignorance and lack of compassion on a large scale make things right? I'll bet at least one of your enlightened religious leaders has put a pet to sleep to save it from suffering. If we can show that compassion for our pet, why can't we extend the same compassion to a mom or dad, brother or sister? Why can't it be one more option when facing end of life decisions?

susanbanthony
susanbanthony

@Punatic @susanbanthony  

No, it's not "ignorance and lack of compassion." It's just the opposite. These people are concerned about the depressed, mentally ill, elderly with Alzheimer's disease and other people who are not thinking clearly and are susceptible to being pressured by nursing staff, Kevorkian-types, and heirs to "die with dignity." This measure is full of flaws that will allow abuse to occur. Just one example: an heir an be one of the two witnesses to the patient's signature.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

@susanbanthony @Punatic 

A person making such a medication request is expected to have a secondary with the patients' interests talk to the person and doctor during the medication request phase and that is part of this legislation.

Finally there are several countries and states that issue this medication and they are not seeing any signs that these laws are being abused. EVER.

I'd never involve myself with your decision to die; why must you interfere with mine? Is there any point you would actually step back and say "It is not my right to interfere"? Or does your faith give you infinite ability to go about molesting other's rights?

You may be forcing this issue under a religious spotlight in your mind that is telling you this legislation is bad because your religion says it is bad. That is hardly logical. Forcing other people to suffer because of your beliefs is selfish and wrong... I'd never involve myself with your decision to die; why must you interfere with mine?

I am a registered nurse and work with doctors very closesly... A doctor and a nurse both think all the time about protecting their careers when involved with death because to do or say the wrong thing might mean lawuits or jailtime.... You lack a real understanding of how medicine works... Ill tell you right now that it would be a rare doctor to hand out a script willingly leading to the death of a patient. Many doctors will avoid it and the few whom right these scripts will want a good amount of evidence before writing for the medication.... But you would rather meddle with another profession you are untrained for as well as the patient's rights because of religion. 

You would likely force your loved unto a prolonged death without relief from suffering because of 3000 year old beliefs written by those whom thought sickness a curse by God... It is not very endearing.

susanbanthony
susanbanthony

@Punatic @susanbanthony  

"The states with right to die laws in place are not reporting abuses by nursing staff or Kevorkian types because their laws have several layers of protection for the groups you mention."

Wow! They protect Kevorkian type doctors from prosecution for murder? That's comforting!

By the way, another flaw with Question 2 is that a person's spouse and other family members need not be told they have received lethal drugs.

Punatic
Punatic

@susanbanthony @Punatic The states with right to die laws in place are not reporting abuses by nursing staff or Kevorkian types because their laws have several layers of protection for the groups you mention. Personally, if I develop Alzheimer's disease or something equally horrific and I don't have friends or family looking out for my interests, I would hope that a compassionate nurse or Kevorkian type doctor would help end my suffering. A valid Advanced Medical Directive can prevent many of the abuses you seem to fear. I support people having the choice - just because the law may be flawed, do we have to deny a peaceful death to those who can make the decision for themselves?

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Once again, we run across an issue that causes me lots of grief.  My issue: when someone decides to take their own life but is caught and prevented, they're often sent to psychiatric care and significant effort is put into place to convince the person not to commit suicide.  Ignoring the 6 month precondition and rather talking about Euthanasia at a more general level, what distinguishes suicide from physician assisted suicide?

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@forgottenlord 

Any condition by which you would grant a pet dog the mercy of an easy death.

That is the difference and people aught to grow up and recognize that.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"...Public Policy Polling survey reported support outpacing opposition 56% to 30%."

Most people like the idea of being able to make their own choices about how to live - or die - rather than have government inject Catholic Church doctrine into their ability to decide for themselves. Even "conservatives" claim to like the principle of personal autonomy, free from government interference, at least until their authoritarian leaders tell them otherwise. As far as medical society concern-trolling goes, I'll take their worries about "safeguards against abuse" when they get evangelical about policing doctors who kill their patients who weren't planning to die.