Voters in Massachusetts appear to have prevented the state from becoming the third to legalize assisted suicide when they considered Question 2 at the ballot box today.
With 87% of all votes recorded, Question 2 is behind 51-49 percent, losing by about 29,000 votes out of approximately 2.5 million cast.
The Catholic Church was among the most outspoken opponents of Question 2. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley urged parishioners to vote against the measure in a special homily that was broadcast to all parishes in the archdiocese.
“Laws must not be born out of emotions. Laws need to reflect the moral law, the common good and the protection of the most vulnerable,” O’Malley said in the talk.
In an appeal to non-religious voters, O’Malley also said the law is bad policy. He said terminal diagnoses are often wrong.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide professional association of physicians with more than 24,000 members, also declared its opposition to the November ballot question on assisted suicide.
“These are important health care questions for the state,” said Richard Aghababian, M.D., the Society’s president, “and patients deserve to know what we think and where we stand on these issues.”
Dr. Aghababian said the Society’s position on Question 2, Prescribing Medication to End Life, is consistent with the organization’s long-standing policies against physician-assisted suicide. as voted by member physicians of the organization’s House of Delegates.
Lynda M. Young, MD, MMS past president, testified about the MMS policy at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2012:
“Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. “Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. … Patients must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”
As in Oregon and Washington, the Massachusetts proposal states assisted suicide would be legal for residents of the state in cases where a doctor has determined the patient has less than six months to live. However, the examples of the two Western states have shown that those safeguards do not work.
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Robin Loughman, R.N., Chairwoman of the Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (MAADPS), said in a press release, “a prognosis of six months to live is inexact at best. This question gives people the means to commit suicide. The doctor has no obligation to be sure the person is competent, not depressed, or not under pressure. The doctor is required to falsify the death certificate by stating the cause of death to be the “underlying condition” rather than the suicide that occurred.”
Following legalization in Oregon, a woman was told that her health plan would not cover the cancer treatment she needed but rather would cover the cost of her suicide. And the case was not an isolated incident. Assisted suicide legalization in Oregon has put patients at risk by putting financial pressure on physicians to prescribe suicide. “It’s chilling when you think about it,” said Dr. William Toffler, a professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. “It absolutely conveys to the patient that continued living isn’t worthwhile.”