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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