What Brought Down Assisted Suicide? Flaws? Money? And Now What?

The fight over Question 2, the assisted suicide measure on the Massachusetts ballot, officially ended early this morning when its backers conceded defeat in a narrow squeak of a vote. What happened? How did the measure lose its early lead in the polls?

A statement from the main opposition group, the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, says the question, which would have allowed terminally ill patients to request life-ending prescriptions from their doctors, was simply flawed.

From its chairperson, Rosanne Bacon Meade:

“While some votes remain uncounted on this question, we believe the question’s defeat is now assured.  We believe Question 2 was defeated because the voters came to see this as a flawed approach to end of life care, lacking in the most basic safeguards. A broad coalition of medical professionals, religious leaders, elected officials and, voters from across the political spectrum made clear that these flaws were too troubling for a question of such consequence. We hope these results mark the beginning of a deliberate and thorough conversation about ways to improve end-of-life care in Massachusetts, which, as the nation’s health care capital, is well positioned to take the lead on this issue.”

The measure’s proponents, however, cite a flood of money to the opposition, which ended up outspending them by about 5 to 1, about $5 million to $1 million. That money went in part to pay for ads like the one above, which proponents say is misleading. In a message to supporters, they wrote: “Death with Dignity has been law for a combined 19 years in other states. Not once has the law been abused or misused. Of course, no patient has ever been told to swallow 100 pills, as opponents claim in their TV ads.”

Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the measure’s backers, the Death With Dignity Act campaign, said the initiative was “a grassroots effort financed by individuals, many of whom have experienced the death of a loved one that has been painful and prolonged.” They were up against “out-of-state conservative groups that are opposed to individual choice,” he said. “If you look at even the Catholic church money, most of that money comes from out of state.”

This morning’s statement from the Death With Dignity Act campaign calls for fighting onward:

Even in defeat, the voters of Massachusetts have delivered a call to action that will continue and grow until the terminally-ill have the right to end their suffering, because today dying people needlessly endure in our Commonwealth and do not have the right to control their most personal medical decision.

Readers, what would you like to see next?

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  • Mark Rollo, MD

    Question 2 deservedly went down in flames. It would not have expanded choice but would have steered the vulnerable into suicide. The poor and disabled would have suffered disproportionatly since insurance companies would have been incentivised to pay for the cheap choice of suicide instead of for more expensive care. Abuses abound in Oregon and Washinton. “Google” Barbara Wagner to learn about just one of many victims of assisted suicide.
    The proponents of assisted suicide consistently use emotionality rather than logic and the true compassion that the terminally ill dersrve.

    • rockhauler

      it may interest you to know that i would prefer the “cheap” way rather than burden the insurance industry and all ratepayers with an unnecessary cost. i believe it my patriotic duty to try to stay as healthy as possible, but not to live beyond my natural life at the expense of my country, community, family, and myself. and having a physician in attendance is a burdensome and unnecessary cost. i recommend you really listen to the poor and disabled, because poverty and disability do not equate with critical thinking or feelings, and the poor are just as able to think clearly about how they feel on this issue as you are. as someone who spent decades in poverty, i can tell you that it’s no walk in the park to live with well-intentioned people who think they have the answers to my life.

  • orangegenie1

    A lot of the problem is centered around the word “suicide”. This is not suicide per se, it is an end-of-life choice and is actually Dying With Dignity. These people aren’t “suiciding”, they are dying. Anyone recall in the 1970′s with the Karen Anne Quinlan case? After years being on lie supports, the family was finally able to get the hospital to take her off life support. Does anyone suppose the family probably lost their home just to keep paying for all the care for Karen? Does anyone suppose that’s why we have a healthcare proxy, i.e. to pull the plug if need be? I mean come on! The right to die, especially when the person already had a life saved but is going to pass anyway, why would we let someone suffer? If the Dying With Dignity were another choice entered into healthcare proxies, do you suppose the right to die is equally of value as the right to live? I for one, while still mentally functioning, would absolutely have it in writing that I want to die. I will not suffer and die a painful lingering death. We put animals down to spare them nd in dignity–and they don’t have any say in the matter. We humans do have a say! Why the h*ll didn’t you vote for it (those who didn’t)? What was the alternative to this? Smoking bales of pot? If you don’t think you’d die this way, by consent, then why vote against it cutting off people’s choice to die in dignity. In war, a soldier might have a fellow soldier shoot them if they knew he wouldn’t survive. Think about these things. This was about an end-of life option. Not a freak show and “murder”. Don’t tell me this was another fanatic’s issue–like abortion as well?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brainbark Michael Muehe

    What needs to happen now is a much more comprehensive approach to end-of-life care, including guaranteed palliative care and hospice care for all. Question 2 was a simplistic approach to a complex problem, with deeply flawed wording, a complete lack of real safeguards, and a failure to acknowledge that we live in a country where people with severe disabilities are still devalued and trivialized. This even happened during the Question 2 campaign, where both proponents and mainstream media failed to adequately acknowledge the strong voices of disability rights advocates questioning Question 2. We disability rights advocates, who have plenty of first-hand experience being marginalized in these important issues, pointed out the many flaws in this ballot question. Fortunately, the voters heard us in the end. See http://www.secand-thoughts.org for more information., including guaranteed palliative care and hospice care for all. Question 2 was a simplistic approach to a complex problem, with deeply flawed wording, a complete lack of real safeguards, and a failure to acknowledge that we live in a country where people with severe disabilities are still devalued and trivialized. This even happened during the Question 2 campaign, where both proponents and mainstream media failed to adequately acknowledge the strong voices of disability rights advocates questioning Question 2. We disability rights advocates, who have plenty of first-hand experience being marginalized in these important issues, pointed out the many flaws in this ballot question. Fortunately, the voters heard us in the end. See http://www.second-thoughts.org for more information.

    • saywhat

      What does disability have to do with this. Sounds like another irrelative argument.

      • Frances

        It is not irrelevant. If you look at patient data from surveys in Oregon, the top reasons assisted suicide is chosen are things like the fear of losing one’s autonomy or control over one’s bodily functions. These are things that many disabled people have to deal with every day. If people would rather commit suicide than become disabled, we as a society, and especially medical professionals, need to confront that view and help people to see that fear of being disabled is not a reason to end your life. Living with disabilities is not easy, but it is absolutely worth doing. If someone chose suicide over unbearable pain, I would understand, but with modern pain medication and palliative sedation that can almost always be prevented. Choosing suicide because you don’t want to become disabled is something we should never support. It sends a message that people with disabilities would be better off dead, and that is a horrible lie.

        • joliss

          If someone is dying doesn’t that person have the right to decide when and how that should happen? It doesn’t matter if the person’s reason is fear of pain, or losing bodily functions, or just prolonging the inevitable, when death is imminent. It isn’t the same issue as being disabled. I can understand that some disabled people may feel the wrong message is being sent, but I don’t believe that is true. Wanting to have a good death is not the same as believing that disabled people would be better off dead. Not at all .I am not denying you a worthy life. Why would you want to deny me, if I know I am dying, the option of a death at the time of my choice?

        • rockhauler

          once again: your personal ideology being imposed on others. when does ideology become idolatry? and what if the person lives alone without family or community or the ability to sustain a rewarding lifestyle? where are you in reaching out to those people to make their lives worth living in a way that they see rewarding, not your way?

      • Hondok
    • rockhauler

      what needs to happen now is that ideologues (including the religious) need to get out of my life and out of my death. do not consign my life to hell in order to confirm your way of thinking. and please don’t bother coming up with bogus “what-if” arguments: the world of western medicine can handle the process effectively. what it cannot handle is the cost of having physicians in attendance or the personal cost to families, the community, and the government when someone must be kept alive as a burden to all, especially the ill. when it’s my choice to duck out and not be that burden, let me go.