Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Worcester Telegram says Vote 'no' on (assisted suicide) Question 2

The Worcester Telegram is advising Massachusetts citizens to vote No on (assisted suicide) Question 2. The editorial entitled Vote 'no' on Question 2 was published on October 21.

Currently the Bay State Banner, the Worcester Telegram and the Boston Herald have advocated for a No on (assisted suicide) Question 2 vote on the November 6 ballot.

The following is the editorial from the Worcester Telegram.

Vote 'no' on Question 2
Incompatible with medicine's prime mission.

Question 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot asks Massachusetts voters to allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and who have, “with reasonable medical judgement,” six months or fewer to live. We oppose passage of Question 2, and urge voters to vote “no.” 

The language used by the two sides in debating Question 2 reveals sharp philosophical differences regarding how the end of life should be approached. Proponents characterize the proposal as “death with dignity,” and assert that the terminally ill have a right to choose to end their suffering and their lives when and how they choose. Opponents label the proposal “physician-assisted suicide” and say it lacks adequate safeguards, does not provide for tracking and follow-up, and includes no requirement for counseling. 

Our opposition to Question 2 is twofold. First, that deliberately taking life is fundamentally wrong. Second, that asking doctors to be involved in that process is incompatible with their oath to “first do no harm,” and their ongoing mission to heal when possible, and to comfort when the possibility of healing is past. 

Question 2 is modeled on laws passed in Oregon and Washington, and proponents say the law has worked well in those states. Be that as it may, only two states have passed such a law legislatively, and only one other, Montana, has such a law through judicial action. Passage in Massachusetts would overturn hundreds of years of tradition. The measure is opposed by the Massachusetts Medical Society and most physicians. 

Even if one concurs with the philosophical basis of the question, as drafted it lacks sufficient safeguards. The life-ending drugs could be accidentally ingested by someone other than the terminally ill patient; nor does the law outline safeguards for disposal of drugs should the patient die prior to taking them. 

We are also concerned that by creating a putative “right” to physician-assisted suicide, our society would be taking a dangerous step toward a future in which morals become still more murky. Although the measure is touted as voluntary, so no doctor or health-care facility that objects would be required to participate, establishing a “right” to kill oneself could conceivably bring us closer to a legal battle over whether such a “right” is one that no physician could legally refuse to extend to his or her patients. 

Advances in medicine, notably the expansion of hospice care options, have given people in the last stages of life more options than ever before to be comforted, settle their affairs, and spend valuable time with family and friends. Such times can indeed be opportunities for spiritual growth and understanding, for both the dying and their survivors. Life is never without pain, but doctors, nurses, and other caregivers understand better today than ever before how to alleviate that pain and ease the transition we all must face from this life to whatever comes next. 

There already is and will continue to be dignity in dying. Question 2 is fraught with questions that needlessly complicate what is a difficult, but manageable process. We urge a “no” vote. 

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