Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to see what’s going on in your own back yard. Here, Paula Span decodes the downfall of the Death With Dignity Act in Massachusetts. Writing in The New York Times today she boils the loss down to a few basics that undermined support for the measure, which was defeated by voters 51 to 49 percent in November.
The winning strategy, Span writes, included exploiting certain language in the measure, and running fear-based ads attacking the act. Span writes:
…early research showed that Massachusetts residents believed in individual choice, and respect for others’ choices, about death and dying, Mr. Baerlein said. So the anti-Question 2 forces didn’t attack on direct moral or ethical grounds; instead, its ads took aim at certain provisions and how they were worded.
For instance, the proposed law — which included multiple safeguards and waiting periods to prevent impulsive requests, coercion or abuse — required a physician to “recommend” that a terminally ill patient notify his next of kin of his intent.
But it didn’t “require” family notification. “How would you feel if you came home and your mother had decided to take her life?” Mr. Baerlein said. “Voters couldn’t get their arms around that.” Continue reading