POLL: Should Massachusetts Allow Assisted Suicide?

It's one question voters will weigh in November.

Should terminally ill patients be allowed to be given a lethal drugs at their request?

That is . The initiative, called "Death with Dignity," received enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in November, according to the state's attorney general.

The proposal in Massachusetts would allow individuals who have been diagnosed with an illness that will cause death within six months to obtain medication to self-administer to end their life.

If passed, Massachusetts would join Oregon, Washington and Montana as the only states that allow assisted suicide.

What do you think about the question? Join the conversation by commenting below and voting in our poll.

Mike Mitchell August 28, 2012 at 09:09 PM
"It would allow terminally ill people to die humanely and with dignity." Sorry, you won't fool me with the weasel language. With hospice care terminally ill people are already afforded the means to "die humanely and with dignity" - with no one helping to push them off the cliff. It isn't the terminally ill we need to worry about though - it's their family they are leaving behind. Think about this - if you were to decide to end your life prematurely, would you instruct your family to proudly inform others of your decision to give up at your funeral or ...keep it under the rug? How do you think they'd feel about it either way?
Dennis Dunnum August 28, 2012 at 09:34 PM
For many, the end of life is agony. Much of the agony is caused by whatever terminal disease or horrific injury they may have suffered. Many others suffer because modern medicine has poked and prodded and cut and radiated them 'way beyond the time they would have died more peacefully had nature been allowed to take it's course. Whichever case it is, if I were in a position to look forward to the rest of my life being either in excruciating pain or severly doped up to keep the pain at bay or, worse, in a vegetative state I would INSIST on my right to end my own life. Virtually NO faith declaims that the ones who go to heaven or wherever are the ones who stay alive the longest at whatever cost. I fear the motivation to NOT pass this law is exactly that - the cost - if one must legally be kept alive as long as possible there is MUCH money to be made by some already very well off folks.
Amy Hasbrouck August 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM
This poll is badly worded. There are many reasons to oppose assisted suicide aside from "moral" or religious grounds. Firstly, assisted suicide laws are not needed because anyone has the right to make an advanced directive to have medical treatment, food and water withheld should they become incapacitated, and to receive palliative sedation to ease the dying process. Secondly, the poorly-crafted "safeguards" in the law only hide problems, protect doctors from potential liability, and facilitate abuse by insurers, institutions and relatives. As well, assisted suicide laws discriminate against old, ill and disabled people. When non-disabled people say they want to die, they receive suicide prevention services, social and psychological treatment, and may even be locked up to prevent a suicide attempt. But when elders and people with disabilities say they want to kill themselves, they're seen as behaving rationally. Worse yet, while most suicide attempts fail, assisted suicide nearly guarantees that the suicide attempts of disabled people will succeed. This double standard is a concrete example of how disabled people are seen as less valuable, and the common belief that it's better to be dead than disabled.
Amy Hasbrouck August 28, 2012 at 10:14 PM
If you look at the (very limited) information available from the annual reports in Oregon and Washington on their assisted suicide program, pain is last among the reasons people give for asking for assisted suicide. The top reasons all have to do with what happens when people become disabled; loss of physical ability, autonomy, and a sense of dignity. Numbers 2 and 3 on that list are caused not by disability, but by discrimination. Without adequate in-home supports, many people are forced to live in (more expensive) institutions where their lives are regulated according to the facility's schedule. And "dignity" is about how a person feels about him/herself in the face of others' perceptions, not their intrinsic worth. When someone dies in pain, it's not a failure of medical science, it's a failure of medical practice.
Chris Meacham August 28, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Regardless of what this poll says, the voters in Massachusetts are strongly in favor of a Death-with-Dignity law according to all recent scientific polling. This law is not about suicide, this law is about choices for terminally ill and suffering patients. There are many safeguards in the law to make sure it is not abused, and evidence from Oregon and Washington where aid-in-dying is legal, show that these safeguards have been absolutely effective. Religious dogma should not prohibit terminal patients from making their own rational, well informed decisions about their own dying process.
Dennis Dunnum August 28, 2012 at 10:47 PM
If we truly believed that a 'god' is the one and only one who determines when and how we die - all doctors should be prohibited from practicing and drug companies dismantled. To claim that assisted suicide is taking away the decision from a god is disingenuous, at best, and hypocritical nonsense at worst. We can rail against discrimination against the disabled or the elderly all we want but it still exists and to insist the the victims of said discrimination should still NOT have the choice to avoid all that nastiness at the end of their otherwise productive and loving lives seems mean-spirited at best. OK, work on the acceptance issue but, until then, why force people to endure it.
Mark Davis Pickup August 28, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Is Dennis Dunnum being intentional obtuse, just ignorant of 21 Century medicine, or are Massachusetts doctors that poorly educated about modern pain management? I have a hard time believing America is so far behind my country (Canada) . Pain management medications and techniques can give complete relief from physical pain. I have suffered from aggressive multiple sclerosis for more than 28 years. My Canadian doctors have effectively dealt my pain, despite difficult & stubborn neurological symptoms that put me inan electric wheelchair, severe spasticity that twisted my spine. My mother died with bone and brain cancer but virtually pain free. If Mr. Dunnum knows somebody dying in excruciating pain, they need a new doctor. If Massachusetts doctors can relief physical pain, perhaps they should come to a Canadian university to brush up their antiquated skills.
Dennis Dunnum August 28, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Well, in fact, we ARE very far behind medicine in Canada! You've socialized yours; we get what we can afford. I ran AIDS organizations back in the 80's and 90's - our clients may have been free of most pain but their lives, in many cases, were a lethargic waiting game for the next opportunistic infection. Many chose to die on their own terms, with the help of their friends - legal or not! Many times, the assistance of a knowledgeable physician would have made that process MUCH less onerous on both the patient and his/her helping friends. An additional issue is that of increased government scrutiny of doctors who provide more pain meds than our puritanical-based system deems necessary - suffering is good for the soul. And as many here have noted - pain is not always physical. Why would you deny them that choice?
RS Connor August 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Contrary to some comments, this bill IS about suicide. I do not know what else you call killing yourself. "Death with Dignity" is simply a pretty picture you paint over an ugly reality. It is not dignified. If you believe this is something you want to do, to end your life- I disagree but it IS within your power - - but let's not drag the medical profession into it, please. If there is really nothing wrong with this "policy" then tell me why the cause of death on the death certificate will be your terminal illness and not the overdose of drugs you took. That is a LIE. Plain and simple. No more than getting in a fatal car crash while having the same illness and putting your illness as the cause of death. If there is truly "nothing wrong" with this approach - then ask yourself why you have to lie about it. Because deep down, and whether you want to admit it or not, you know this is wrong. Guess what - everyone dies. How we treat people toward the end of their life is what matters. If you want to join them in their depression and despair that their life is "not worth living" then I am not sure what favor you are doing them. Having given 24hr care to my dying mother, in our home, I can tell you that she knew her life was worth living because we reinforced that to her.
Susan Belmore August 29, 2012 at 04:35 PM
There is an excellent Opinion piece from the Boston Globe titled Jack Kevorkian comes to town.....Should Mass. voters approve physician-assisted suicide? By Tom Keane. Please check it out. I think he is right on the money!
Mary Ellen Dixon September 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM
6:03 pm on Friday, September 14, 2012 This law requires NO ONE to utilize it. Your definition of "Dignity" and your beliefs may be different than mine, that is perfectly acceptable. However, what is not acceptable is your not allowing me the choice to follow my beliefs if they are not the same as yours. This law is about choice, no one is imposing this law on you. Please just respect my beliefs and vote with respect for others beliefs
Mary Ellen Dixon September 14, 2012 at 10:23 PM
I have spent the last 35 years working with those who are challenged among us. (I avoid the word 'disabled' as I find it disparaging to those who are just different). I have been in support of Question 2 since it first came to Massachusetts, The law can only be used to hasten the death of someone with a terminal diagnosis and a prognosis of less than 6 months to live. I find your suggestion that the option of "starving oneself" as adequate as abhorrent and cruel and unusual punishment to someone with a terminal disease. Also, if you research palliative care, you will find that it not effective in all cases, e.g. pain in phantom limbs. I would appreciate if you would cite your source that the Oregon and Washington data is compromised as I have not found this in my research of any site regarding this proposed law. No one, other than the patient, can utilize this law; and the elderly and challenged, the most vulnerable in our society, will never be coerced into utilizing this law. In actuality, they will be forbidden from using it unless they have a terminal illness with less than 6 months to live. PLEASE avoid be taken in by fallacies, untruths and misrepresentation of this Ballot question. You have the choice not to utilize it, just don't take away that option from the rest of Massachusetts.


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