Physician-Assisted Suicide Ballot Push In Massachusetts

This November voters in Massachusetts will do more than just help elect a president. They may get a say on whether or not terminally ill individuals should have the ability to get a fatal prescription and control the terms of their own death.

Patient advocates are pushing a ballot initiative to legalize the practice they call “Death with Dignity,” or more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide. If the measure makes it on the ballot, and if voters approve it, Massachusetts would become the third state, joining Oregon and Washington, where voters have explicitly endorsed it.

Under the Massachusetts proposal, terminally ill, mentally competent adults deemed to have six months or less to live would have the freedom to obtain a fatal prescription. They could qualify for the prescription only after going through a process designed to ensure that they are not being coerced and that they fully understand what they’re doing. The patients would administer the drugs themselves and any doctor who opposed the practice could opt out of writing the prescription.

Massachusetts is a key point for this battle. Proponents of assisted suicide think the socially progressive state could help them advance their cause beyond the Pacific Northwest.

But Massachusetts is also a Catholic stronghold and Catholic leaders in the state have already begun a campaign to defeat the ballot initiative.

National Gallup polls have indicated that Americans, over the past half century, have grown more accepting of doctors helping patients end their lives. Fifty-six percent of respondents in a May 2007 poll said that when a person has an incurable disease and is living in severe pain, a doctor “should be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it.” But the topic remains highly contentious. A Gallup Poll a year ago suggested that Americans were nearly evenly split over whether assisted suicide was “morally acceptable.”

Ultimately the voters will need to decide if the risks of abuse and misdiagnoses are outweighed by the potential benefits to terminally ill patients and their families.

Related Stories:

B.C. Woman Asks For Right To Assisted Suicide

A Constitutional Right To Die

Assisted Suicide With Dignity And Compassion

Photo from Lee J. Haywood via flickr.


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

This is a terrible decision that will give power to people before they know whether they are sure of a decent future.


Jennifer P.
Jennifer P5 years ago

I don't think it's a question that it be morally acceptable. It should not matter to anyone outside of the doctor patient relationship. If the patient feels it's right for them to ask for it, and the doctor feel that in good conscience they can allow their patient to carry this through, that there is no other option but a painful, dragged out, end-of-life situation, I believe the patient should be allowed to ask, and the doctor be allowed to prescribe.

This coming from a girl in Oregon :) ... I've never understood how people will do this for their pets, but not for their parents!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

It is the humane and empathic option when one is absolutely sure about it, why would one oppose to euthanasia?

Donna O'Dell
Donna O'Dell5 years ago

Everyone has the right to die with dignity. When a disease is incurable, a person is in constant pain, and the quality of life is over, that person has a right with God to die in peace. I wonder what the debates would be if it was not considered assisted suicide?

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V5 years ago

Wow where to start, Past Member I have seen pets suffer to the end because their owners could not bear to have them put to sleep, that is NOT love that is selfish. I bet they would like to live but don’t YOU get it living is NOT an option here. Stupid comment.

Lynda D. the oath says “above all else do no harm.” Nowhere in the oath does it say they have to stand by and watch their patients suffer when there is NO hope for recovery. A good doctor will do whatever is BEST for the patient even if it means helping them to cross over.

John M, murder, is you serious or just a Sadist???

Edgar Z, so only God has the power over life and death. Does this mean that when you get sick or hurt you refuse to see a doctor? Does this mean that no matter what you will simply pray and if that doesn’t work you will sit back and wait to die? If not then YOU are a HUGE hypocrite!!!

What is the difference between the Catholics and a Dictator??? Answer… NOTHING

Rose Becke5 years ago

It is our right

DeAnna Collins
DeAnna Collins5 years ago

Why do animals in pain get to put to sleep to ease their suffeering but a human being in pain has no say in the matter. I hope the whole USA gets this passed.

ryan b.
Ryan B5 years ago

It is their right as a human being to decide if they want to live or die. No one else can or should make that decision for them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a religious zealot who is also very selfish and wants to continually control everyone else when they really should just look in the mirror to find someone to help.

Lynn Squance
Lynn S5 years ago

We have more compassion for animals thandying people.

I hope this goes through. In BC there is a woman with ALS fighting for the right to have physician assisted suicide. Sue Rodriguez died from ALS but also pushed for assisted suicide. The decision was too late. We need to be compassionate.

Fran F.

No one with an incurable disease should be forced to live in prolonged intense pain.