Massachusetts Voters Defeat Legalization of Assisted Suicide

The culture of life prevailed in the state of Massachusetts on Tuesday night when voters opted to defeat a bill that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

John Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts

According to the Associated Press, the measure, known as Question 2, was defeated 51 to 49 percent.

Religious, medical and disability rights groups fought hard to defeat the measure, claiming that it is open to manipulation and relies on diagnoses that could be incorrect.

Calling the defeat of the measure the best outcome for the common good, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley expressed his hope and prayer ‘‘that the defeat of Question 2 will help all people to understand that for our brothers and sisters confronted with terminal illness we can do better than offering them the means to end their lives.’’

Expressing similar sentiments, Rosanne Bacon Meade, chairwoman of the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, said: ‘‘We believe the voters came to see this as a flawed approach to end of life care, lacking in the most basic safeguards.’’

Massachusetts disability rights activists from the group Second Thoughts, which was very active in the battle to defeat the measure, breathed a sigh of relief when the bill was defeated.

“We changed the nature of the campaign,” said John Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts. “This is the first assisted suicide campaign in which the disability rights perspective has reached so many people.”

Kelly, a power wheelchair user since a spinal cord injury in 1984, became a leading spokesperson for the opposition.

Over the last six weeks of the campaign, support for Question 2 plunged from a high of 68 percent to a steady 49 percent throughout last night. “Simply put, Massachusetts had second thoughts,” Kelly said.

“Assisted suicide proponents tried to paint all opposition as religious and extreme,” said Denise Karuth, Second Thoughts spokesperson for Western Massachusetts. “But progressives changed their minds when they heard, for example that no independent witness was required when the drugs are taken. It’s a recipe for elder abuse.”

“We fight for social justice,” said Eileen Feldman of the Second Thoughts steering committee. “Besides unreliable safeguards, Question 2 stigmatizes conditions that are a normal part of living as disabled for many people. Physical incapacity or incontinence does not take away your dignity.”

Second Thoughts now hopes to capitalize on its media exposure by continuing its advocacy on life-and-death healthcare issues, which impact people with disabilities across the age spectrum.

“Question 2 galvanized our community,” said Kelly. “We live on the front lines of our health care system, and our knowledge and experience can improve the system and make it more responsive to people faced with serious chronic and terminal illnesses.”

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