Question 2 failure opens door to dialogue

Physician-assisted suicide failed to pass on the Massachusetts ballot by a narrow margin that was too close to call in the early morning hours on Wednesday.

Question 2, known as the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act, was voted down Tuesday by a margin of 2 percent — 51 percent against the measure and 49 percent in support.

“To us, it was a validation that people heard and understood our message that this is [an] extremely flawed and confusing ballot initiative,” said Andy Hoglund, spokesman for the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide.

Under the proposed act, a patient qualified for physician-assisted suicide would have the mental capability of making health care decisions, have an incurable disease that will cause death within six months and would voluntarily express a wish to die.

A physician would have to speak to the patient twice, 15 days apart, to allow them to rescind their request, and would have the patient sign a standard form with two witnesses present.

The proposed act states the patient would ingest the medicine in order to cause death in a humane and dignified manner.

The patient’s death certificate would list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death, and physician-assisted suicide would be a voluntary service to which healthcare providers would not have to commit.

Hoglund said his organization wants more time to debate the issue and come up with the best solution.

“It’s always been our plan that Massachusetts needs a longer conversation about end-of-life issues,” he said. “Yesterday’s vote was a great starting point to having that dialogue.”

Stephen Crawford, communications director for the Yes on Dignity campaign, said a number of citizens are disappointed with the results.

“I am disappointed that there are people suffering in Massachusetts who were counting on the law being passed,” he said. “Some people called my office today concerned, and we don’t have answers for them.”

Crawford said he was impressed with his campaign’s efforts in regard to human rights.

“It was very close and people are disappointed by the outcome,” he said. “People are certainly energized that a small grassroots organization made up of people who have a personal experience of someone suffering came within a striking distance of a well financed campaign that bombarded the airways with negative advertisements.”

Some Boston University students said they supported the cause and are disheartened to see the law fail.

“If a person is really ill and it has gotten to the point where they are in so much pain and discomfort and they want to leave this world in a humane way rather than suffer, they should have that right,” said Matt Jamin, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman.

Conor Glover, a CAS senior, said he is unhappy the law did not pass.

“It’s unfortunate that what you voted for doesn’t go through,” he said. “It just makes you wonder what it is like for people in that situation and how it might feel for them.”

Other students were against the passage of the bill and were glad that it did not pass.

“I am okay with the idea to choose to take those medications under certain circumstances, but not by the methods under the bill,” said School of Management junior Matt Costa. “If medical professionals don’t approve of the bill, that should tell you something.”

Kevin Doherty, a CAS freshman, said even though his grandfather’s treatment for cancer lasted a long time, he knew his grandfather valued his whole life.

“Even if he was struggling in the end, he enjoyed the life he still had left in the world,” he said. “Everyone deserves the right to live and that right should be available.”

2 Comments

  1. Matt Costa: It’s not totally straightforward to rely on what medical professionals think about this bill – since they too are divided.

  2. Re last comment “Everyone deserves the right………. ”

    What about “Everyone deserves the right to die and that right should be available”

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