Cape Cod Times - October 25, 2012
The law as proposed would give a patient, who is given a prognosis of less than six months to live, the ability to request a lethal prescription to end his life.
Question 2 is flawed because it does not require a patient to consult with a psychiatrist before receiving a prescription to commit suicide, and as many as 40 percent of terminally ill cancer patients suffer from clinical depression.
Although Question 2 requires physicians to present alternatives to assisted suicide, such as palliative or hospice care, the ballot initiative fails to ensure patients have adequate access to these forms of care, according to the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide. It does not require them to seek assistance from a palliative care facility or from social workers or other professionals who are familiar with palliative care alternatives.
"Although this is referred to as physician-assisted suicide, there is no physician involved in the process, and the lethal dose is most often taken at home with no guidance or supervision," said Thomas Dwyer of the committee.
In addition, thousands of concerned doctors, nurses, hospice workers, religious leaders and citizens are opposed to Question 2.
Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the society, said in a press release that the organization's stand against Question 2 is based on the idea that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer.
He also said that predicting a person's end of life within six months is difficult, as such predictions can be inaccurate.
Dr. Aghababian added that the ballot question also lacks provisions to ensure that patients are protected from making uninformed decisions and being coerced into making a decision.
The Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, the state's largest organization of family physicians, joined the society and the Massachusetts Osteopathic Society in urging voters to defeat Question 2.
"The role of family physicians is to provide compassionate, high quality health care to the all patients, in each stage of life," said Dr. Joseph Gravel, president of the academy, in a press release. "This certainly includes end-of-life care. It is clear that we need to continue to work to provide those suffering from serious illnesses, depression, and other conditions that can lead to hopelessness highly effective palliative and hospice treatments that are now available."
Dr. Gravel said the lack of safeguards in the Question 2 language is particularly troubling.
"This is literally a life-and-death issue for very vulnerable people," he said. "Using the blunt instrument of a ballot initiative in which the voter only has two choices — yes or no — to decide what a physician can or cannot do in such a nuanced, complex area of medical practice is a disservice to citizens of the commonwealth, our patients and our own families."
Gravel said the state should enhance palliative and hospice care programs, which are chronically underfunded and underutilized.
As Dwyer said, "Improving hospice, palliative and other end-of-life care options should be the priority — not promoting physician-assisted suicide."
We recommend voting "no" on Question 2.