Assisted suicide supporters say ballot question will move ahead
By Colleen Quinn, State House News Service
Metrowest Daily News reported 22 June 2012
Backers of a ballot question allowing terminally ill patients to request and self-administer life-ending medications say they have gathered enough valid signatures to put a binding question before [Massachusetts] voters in November, and are now bracing themselves for a fight with the Catholic Church and several other organizations.
The Boston Archdiocese, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Family Institute, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and some advocates for the elderly and disabled, have all indicated plans to mount a vigorous campaign to defeat the proposal, contending it is fraught with the potential for error and could be used to compel older, ill adults to end their lives.
With a second and final signature deadline nearing, the Death with Dignity campaign collected more than 21,000 signatures--almost double the amount they need to place the question on the Nov. 6 ballot. Supporters say polls show overwhelming support among Massachusetts voters to allow terminally-ill adults to legally request medication from their doctors to end their lives.
If voters pass the ballot question, Massachusetts would become the fourth state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, along with Oregon, Washington and Montana.
The proposal lays out parameters for terminal patients to receive life-ending medication. To qualify, a patient must be a Massachusetts resident who is diagnosed by two physicians with an incurable disease that will cause death within six months. Doctors must determine the person is mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions, and are required to inform patients about other end-of-life care options, including palliative and hospice care.
In a poll taken by the Western New England University Polling Institute, 60 percent of voters supported physician-assisted suicide, 29 percent opposed it. The poll was conducted in late May with 504 voters.
According to the institute, 52 percent of all Catholic voters said they support the idea, 36 percent oppose it and 12 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. Among Catholic voters who attend church at least once a week, 52 percent opposed the death-with-dignity proposal and 37 percent supported it.
Despite the favorable polls, backers of the physician-assisted suicide ballot question say it is going to be a fight to get it passed in Massachusetts. The proposal is based on a similar law in Oregon that has been in effect for 15 years.
"I think it is going to be tough because the Catholic Church is so strong in Massachusetts and for them this is just a religious matter," said Dr. Marcia Angell, one of the original sponsors of the initiative petition. "I am not sure Catholics who are not in the hierarchy will go along with the church's position."