In Hot Debate Over Assisted Suicide, Globe Comes Out Against Ballot Question

(Photo illustration by Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

The Boston Globe today officially came out against Question 2, the “Death with Dignity” measure on next week’s Massachusetts ballot that would allow terminally ill patients to request prescriptions for life-ending pills. Its masthead editorial argues:

Reasonable people can disagree passionately about Question 2, but a yes vote would not serve the larger interests of the state. Rather than bring Massachusetts closer to an agreed-upon set of procedures for approaching the end of life, it would be a flashpoint and distraction — the maximum amount of moral conflict for a very modest gain.
Instead, Massachusetts should commit itself to a rigorous exploration of end-of-life issues, with the goal of bringing the medical community, insurers, religious groups, and state policy makers into agreement on how best to help individuals handle terminal illnesses and die on their own terms.

The Globe’s opposition is the latest of several major media “against” votes, from The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. to an op-ed piece by Ben Mattlin, a journalist with a disabling disease, in The New York Times. But voices are also being raised in favor, including uber-ethicist Art Caplan on NBC. He writes:

The proposed Massachusetts law is very restricted and contains important safeguards. Experience in other states shows little reason for worry about abuse or misuse. Instead the more people who are going to die know they can end their lives sooner if they choose, the more many of them fight harder to live. Making assisted suicide possible in Massachusetts rightly puts a choice in the hands of a very few who may not use it, but value having it.

The latest polls suggest that the measure will pass, though the margin in favor has slipped significantly from earlier polls. The Globe reported Monday from its latest poll:

Some 47 percent of voters currently support the suicide ballot question, while 37 percent oppose it and 16 percent are undecided. That is a large drop from last month, when 68 percent supported the question, and 20 percent opposed it.

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