Why I’m voting No on Question 2 in MA

A week from today Massachusetts voters will vote on question 2, titled “Prescribing Medication to End Life“. This is a bad law.

In short, it allows physicians to describe a massive amount of narcotics to patients who have been told they have six months or fewer to live. Six months is a long time, and six months can often turn into more. No family notification or psychiatric consultation is required.

Though I made up my mind a while ago, I’m ashamed to admit I just now read the entire bill. One provision stuck out to me: doctors must recommend that a patient not end their life in a public place. This is what will pass for compassionate care? If there is a concern that someone might stop at the pharmacy and then down their hundred pills on a park bench, perhaps we should be prohibiting the activity, rather than requiring doctors to make recommendations on how to commit suicide.

We can do better than this. I know valiant people who work in the fields of hospice and palliative care who already do heroic work and could do even more with greater societal investment. Suicide among the physically healthy is often characterized as an “easy way out”. Some who oppose Question 2 suspect this law could make legal an “easy way out” for the more craven among us who do not want to be burdened with care of the elderly or disabled. Though I like to assume the best in people, it’s far too easy to imagine abuse of this process and disregard of the safeguards that its authors tried to ensure.

Here are arguments from three groups who also oppose Question 2:

From “No On Question 2

From the “Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide

Via Suicide is always a tragedy,  from Cardinal Sean and the Archdiocese of Boston

If I were more careful, or more prudent, I would stop my post here. The real reason I oppose this bill is unpopular, and too easy to rebut, and if there are two things I hate, they are being unpopular and being rebutted.

Still, I can’t help but proclaim that suicide is just wrong. As a society and as individuals, we are given many opportunities to let death win. When we agree that life is not worth living, we are saying that life has no more to say here, that we know better than God or fate or Mother Nature or whatever you want to call it.

I know the counter-arguments, I’ve heard the anecdotes and I feel for the people who watched the decline of a loved one and wished there was a legal way to ease their suffering. I know that I’ve never been there, so I can’t say what I would want. Still, I’m not willing to enshrine in a law a concession to death that defies everything I’ve ever believed about life.

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9 Responses to Why I’m voting No on Question 2 in MA

  1. Jen says:

    Assisted suicide bill with a for-profit healthcare system? What could possibly go wrong? (Yes, sarcasm intended.) Yeah, this one, like the one in WA, chills me to the bone.

  2. Bravo Margaret! I posted on Facebook and received some very interesting replies! All we can do is use our voice and pray that people will think beyond themselves and shape a stronger community of care and compassion. Thank you!

  3. Emilia says:

    I’ve reached a point where I believe beginning and end of life issues (including the very definition of “life”) are so complicated that we can’t possibly legislate with any kind of accuracy or fairness. I really wish we as a society could acknowledge how complicated and difficult and personal these issues are, and how far we are from understanding them scientifically. I long for a society in which we are less afraid of death – which is, of course, a part of life – and more comfortable with living in the grey areas. I long for a society that is able to be compassionate and to honor the impossibility of so many beginning and end of life situations. I wish, rather than trying to legislate one view of things, one definition of life that may or may not hold up scientifically and that almost certainly won’t hold up spiritually for everyone in our diverse society, we could acknowledge our own limitations as a species and make our decisions out of compassion rather than fear, acknowledging that sometimes there are no easy answers, and that we certainly can’t make them for one another or legislate one answer for every situation. I realize what a can of worms this opens – I know that if we don’t draw the line to define life as liberally as possible we risk a whole bunch of scary alternatives – but I wish we could at least begin the conversation honestly with “we don’t know.”

    • felicemifa says:

      I appreciate such an honest, thoughtful response. I’m always impressed with how deeply you have thought through complicated issues. I’d encourage you to have a blog of your own, but I don’t need that sort of competition. 🙂

  4. Beth Corliss says:

    Great entry! I just have to add a caveat that people who actually commit suicide are often not looking for an easy way out – they are usually in such a deep depression that their internal torture overpowers their survival instinct. My career is aimed toward helping people in emotional distress realize that they have life-giving and life-sustaining options so I don’t condone suicide or euthanasia. That being said, it is not as simple as an act of cowardice or selfishness. I know that this is not what you are saying necessarily, but I think it is an important distinction. I completely agree that this bill leads down a very slippery slope.

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