Friday, October 26, 2012

Assisted Suicide Goes to Vote in Massachusetts.

An article in the NPR today entitled: Assisted Suicide Goes to Vote in Massachusetts concerns ballot Question 2 (assisted suicide) that will go to a vote on November 6.

The article that was written by Sacha Pfeiffer interviews John Kelly, the leader of the disability rights group - Second Thoughts, and it interviews Dr. Lachlan Forrow, the director of ethics and palliative care programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who both oppose assisted suicide.

The article states:
Two states, Oregon and Washington, have legalized physician-assisted suicide through voter-approved ballot initiatives. Massachusetts will become the third if voters approve the so-called Death With Dignity ballot question. The measure would let terminally ill patients with six months or less to live get a lethal prescription. The outcome of that vote could change the landscape for legalized suicide nationwide.
John Kelly
The article interviewed John Kelly:
Disabilities rights activist John Kelly is ardently against the measure, as are the Massachusetts Medical Society and several religious organizations. 
"My major concern is that this bill is a recipe for abuse," Kelly says. 
The two sides disagree on whether the initiative has adequate safeguards. Kelly fears that sick people with treatable depression could feel pressure to end their lives from family members eager for an inheritance or because they feel like a burden. 
"Here I think about people with psychiatric histories, people with dementia, people who are subject to coercion. These people will be impacted," he says. 
Kelly, who is quadriplegic, says legalized suicide sends a damaging message that certain lives aren't worth living. He's also concerned that death by prescription will appeal to a health care system focused on the bottom line. 
"With cost controls, hospitals losing money, profit-making insurance companies, we're always hearing about the incredible expense in the last year of life. And this is a way to save that money," Kelly says.
Dr Lachlan Forrow
The article also interviewed palliative care leader Dr. Forrow:
Massachusetts is considered a pioneer in health care reform. So Dr. Lachlan Forrow, the director of ethics and palliative care programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says this vote is particularly noteworthy. 
"If Massachusetts takes the step of legalizing physician-assisted suicide, I think that would have a major transforming effect on national conversations. And a lot of people will say, 'It's even a heavily Catholic state, so maybe this should be emulated elsewhere,' " Forrow says. 
But he regrets this issue is on the ballot. Forrow says the money and energy that has gone into it would have been better spent expanding and improving end-of-life services like hospice and palliative care. So whether or not Massachusetts legalizes physician-assisted suicide, he hopes supporters and opponents will work together after Election Day to make dying a gentler process for terminally ill patients.
The article concludes by stating: 
In Montana, a state supreme court ruling gives legal protection to doctors who assist a patient's suicide, but does not explicitly legalize it.

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