Should Massachusetts Allow Assisted Suicide?

It's one question voters will weigh in November.


Should terminally ill patients be allowed to be given a lethal drugs at their request?

That's one question Massachusetts voters will be expected to consider when the hit the voting booth in November. The initiative, called "Death with Dignity," received enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in November, according to the state's attorney general.

The proposal in Massachusetts would allow individuals who have been diagnosed with an illness that will cause death within six months to obtain medication to self-administer to end their life.

If passed, Massachusetts would join Oregon, Washington and Montana as the only states that allow assisted suicide.

What do you think about assisted suicide for the terminally ill? Let us know in the comments section.

Is it society's way for not wanting to spend money on health care for the sick and dying or is a compassionate way to let people not suffer in their final days?

John H Bunker Sr. July 31, 2012 at 11:03 AM
I had the unfortunate job of nursing a loved one at the end of a long battle with cancer. Even though she had a morphine pump, and pain killers her pain was horrendous, she would look at me with tears streaming down her face and beg me to kill her. If not for the fact that I would sacrifice my freedom, I would have. When someone you love is in that stage with no hope of recovery, it should be legal for medical intervention to end their life. My wife had the same awful experience with her mother. This is a no brainer, legalize assisted suicide by qualified medical personnel.
Mark Davis Pickup July 31, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Well my mother died of brain/bone cancer here in Canada. Her physical pain was well controlled to the point of complete relief. I have trouble believing American medicine to so far behind in pain relief. I have advanced, degenerative MS and prostate cancer but would not dream of asking for assisted suicide because it would help entrench the notion that some lives are unworthy of living and that would put others at risk. Interdependence is more important than independence. Do you want autonomy or community? -- Mark Davis Pickup, Beaumont, AB., Canada
Ed Boylan July 31, 2012 at 03:41 PM
"No Brainer" is the phrase of choice to end meaningful debate on an issue. There are many public policy reasons to not legally authorize suicide. And while one person's experience, if true, may be heart wrenching, laws cannot be implemented based on emotions. In fact, with advances in hospice care and advances in pain management and palliative care, very few people at life's end need tosuffer "intractable pain." Giving people carte balnche to end another's lif is not a slippery slope, it's a vertical cliff.
Margaret Carroll-Bergman (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Hi Mark, interesting to get the Canadian perspective. Thank you for sharing, Margaret
Sandra Kucharski July 31, 2012 at 03:59 PM
With the drugs we have available today, there is no need for anyone to suffer extreme pain at any point in their life. Unfortunately, not all doctors have the knowledge or skill to manage pain effectively. Inadequate pain control is not a cause for assisted suicide, but rather points to a need for a revised medical plan, or a consult with a pain specialist. The "Death with Dignity" initiative has many loopholes, not the least of which is that it allows someone else, including an heir, to administer the lethal dose. There are no strict safeguards in place. Pain is a symptom. You treat the symptom. There is no need to kill an individual because they have a symptom.
Dave Stevens July 31, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I was in a similiar situation as John. There was no hope the doctor said she will surely die, but slowly she got better and better and now lives a full life & is enjoying her grand children & life to the fullest. I began to do research on the internet & found that doctors are wrong more than 1/2 the times & patients recover. So doctors don't really know when someones life is going to end, lets not give then that authority.
Tom Drapeau July 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Why do feel the need to play God ? Here is an excerpt from a book by Rick Warren. He is the Christian Pastor that asked President Obama when life begins and President Obama's lack of leadership showed then. He said "that is above my pay grade". Here is the excerpt - "Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!" " John, I understand your pain but there is a purpose and someday we will understand. Please reflect on this. Sincerely, Tom Drapeau
RS Connor July 31, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I also cared for my mother, in my home, to the end of her time here on earth. With the help of hospice, my wife and I were properly trained and were able to manage her pain and treat her with love and respect until the NATURAL end of her life. Many friends and family had opportunity to visit with her and when she passed away, it was not based on "my timeline." She, like all people in this world, deserve the dignity and respect befitting a human being - and that is NOT to take a life. People talk about "humanely ending alife, as we would with an animal" - well people, quite frankly, deserve better treatment than an animal people would euthanize because it is not worth your time or money any longer. My children learned a wonderful lesson from their grandmother, and hopefully from their parent, as well. If someone wants to end their life it is either because they have some level of a mental breakdown occurring, and/or because someone else is convincing them they are not worth having around any longer. Tell people it is worth having them around. Show them they are valuable. Do not believe the lies of a hastened death being a "death with dignity" - it is not. Such a lie is beneath human dignity.
RS Connor July 31, 2012 at 04:18 PM
- I am very sorry John, for you and for your wife and especially for your loved one and for your wife's mother. If anyone out there is experiencing similar things, by all means, please seek a new physician to assist with the pain. Pain management is available and works.
Buseybee July 31, 2012 at 04:42 PM
My understanding of the proposed law is that the patient is the one who decides if assisted suicide is what they want. No one can force them to request assisted suicide. They must have a life expectancy of six months or less and must submit their request for assisted suicide twice. They must be coherent and they must be able to sign their name to the request. Not all pain can be controlled to the point of being tolerated. If another human being is suffering, especially a loved one, how can we insist that they continue suffering unspeakable pain? Isn't that their decision as an informed, aware adult? This should not be an issue of religion or sanctity of life. If someone is at the end of their life and is suffering, they should have the right to end the suffering comfortably and with their loved ones at their side. I know that I would want the option of ending my suffering if I was the patient. I intend to vote in favor of this initiative.
Casey Meserve July 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
What about in the case of Alzheimer's Disease or other diseases where there is currently no cure such as ALS?
RS Connor July 31, 2012 at 05:03 PM
We are all going to die. From the moment of birth, it is only a matter of time. None of us, ever, really know "how long." The question becomes - what do we do with the time we have? ...give up? Not sure what kind of example that ever sets. I have known people with terminal illnesses that taught me more about life than many people in "good health" ever could.
RS Connor July 31, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Also - there is inherent dishonesty, even in the Bill/Initiative. It is the lethal prescription that ends the life in this situation. It is a huge amount of pills to be swallowed, and basically amounts to an overdose - yet what appears on the death certificate? The underlying illness appears as the cause of death. If there is nothing "wrong" with this kind of death - then why are people so afraid to put suicide on the death certificate? It is suicide, pure and simple. If you cannot even face calling this bill what it is, and avoid putting it as the cause of death of the person who kills themself, then ask yourself "why?" Because deep down you know it is wrong. This Bill/Initiative cannot even be honest with what it is, and what it does. Don't be fooled...
Andrew Bair July 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
The elderly and those with disabilities deserve our utmost compassion. This requires us cherishing their lives as long as they are with us. Assisted suicide is not the answer. It will not improve the quality of life of our people. It uses violence as a solution when the patient needs genuine care and comforting. Assisted suicide transforms physicians from healers into killers. Since legalization in Oregon, there have been numerous cases where insurance plans were willing to cover the cost of someone's suicide but not the cost of the cancer treatment they desperately needed and desired. Vote NO on this proposition.
Stephen July 31, 2012 at 06:39 PM
If Massachusetts allows assisted suicide, it will not be long before older or sicker or patients with few friends or family will be subtly--or not so subtly--encouraged to request a doctor's help in taking their own lifves. One argument that will be made-- explicitly of implicitly--will be that these "hopeless" patients pose an "unacceptable" burden on society. Proponents argue that they are championing compassion and human rights, but their argument undermines that every life, regardless of handicap or limitation, has value.
Patricia D. Stewart July 31, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Even if you agree with the concept of doctor-prescribed suicide, the proposed law is not the way to go. It is poorly written and replete with potential abuses.These include, but are not limited to: no requirement for a mental health evaluation of the patient before the lethal overdose is dispensed or consumed; no safeguard against the risk of misdiagnosis of a "terminal" condition that would result in a patient receiving the lethal drugs in error; no protection against an insurer denying a claim for treatment in favor of the cheaper "suicide option" (as happened in Oregon); no requirement for a witness or doctor to be present when the patient consumes the lethal drugs, opening the door for coercion or trickery of the patient that would never be known. Massachusetts citizens already have the absolute right to control their medical treatment. Voting "No" on this poorly conceived ballot question will not diminish a patient's care or his or her medical options which exist and are preserved under current law.
Marisa Marchi July 31, 2012 at 08:06 PM
" Death with Dignity" has no dignity. There is nothing dignified about suicide. There is pallative care. Everyone that is in the final moments of their life can seek medical assistance and with medication, control the pain. No one mentions the fact that life is a gift from God. He is the giver of life and only He can take it.
Marylee Marsh July 31, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Assisted suicide should not be permitted in Massachusetts or in any state or country. It is a horrific crime. People need to understand that life is a gift from God. Only God has the power to end a life. God's timing is always perfect. He permits suffering for reasons we do not understand, but we must trust that he always does what is best for us.
Bob Dee July 31, 2012 at 09:50 PM
"Never Forget"... it seems to apply here too for the first to be relieved of their pain in Germany in the 1930s were the insane, terminally ill... those with no chance for a normal life. Once government has a little bit of authority, it is not long until it takes more and more. We should "Never Forget".
kgallagher July 31, 2012 at 10:11 PM
the treatment of the termabley ill is one of the hardest issues that is in the world today and we need to remember that these are human beings who value their own lives and who would choose to live if they were not in these situation. Instead of jumping to give them the option of ending their lives we should stop the suffering. Many of these people are not going to end their lives because of the illness but because of the pain it is causing or will cause. your right we should not tolerate our loved ones to suffer intolerable pain, but we should exhaust every means of making them comfortable first. Unfortunately pain control methods are not perfect and we should try our hardest to make them better. We should also work to better train our medical professionals, many of whom are not up-to- date in modern pain control methods. also studies have found that most people who attempt suicide are suffering from treatable depression. In Oregon only 13% of the patients who applied for a doctor to end their lives had any kind of psychiatric screening. The people who are creating this bill have the best of intentions, but unfortunately it is a Pandora box of problems.
Marianne August 01, 2012 at 03:02 AM
You must have suffered as well, loss of time at work and personal time, let alone all the inconvenience and troubling sceanarios... Seems like you were ending your own pain at he expense of the " the Loved One". Marianne McGuire
Marianne August 01, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Thanks for this logical reply, "pain is a symptom" indeed. Many times, it is a symptom of lack of true care...a gentile voice, a loving hug, a caring word. Death can be painful. Rather than order a jar of pills to bring untimely death, You may want to call a priest to annoint the patient with the Sacrament of the Sick. Many patients and family see immediate relief for the patient during and after the receiving of this Sacrament. Marianne
Jeanne Zarrella August 01, 2012 at 11:40 AM
As an R.N. of 31 yrs., I have had the privelage of being with far too many as they left us, my own mother included. My daughter is a cancer survivor as well. I cannot encourage families enough to get Hospice involved as soon as possible when a patient has a terminal illness. I did it for my own mother so that I could continue to be her daughter instead of her nurse. The other team members available, such as clergy play a huge role in supporting both the patient and family during these difficult times. My mother had someone to "vent" to, without feeling as if she were burdening us. My experience has shown me that very few families are "comfortable" around death, but the support from Hospice helps alleviate this. They are well educated in pain control as well as relief of other symptoms such as nausea. I would rather see Hospice care expanded....petition insurance companies to pay for longer visits etc. or pay for in hospital Hospice care, thus easing the burden on family who may have no choice but to work while still giving appropriate end of life care. I agree no one should suffer but dignity must be maintained and emotions kept in check. MD's also need more education in how to support both the patient and family during this time so the proper supports are maintained.
Sharon August 04, 2012 at 02:55 AM
I spent the last year of my friend's life taking care of him while he was dying from lung cancer. He had Hospice care for the last 6 months before he died. They came a couple of times a week and more often near the end. He had his pain managed. He spent the end of his life visiting with all of the people, in his life, that he cared about. It was not easy, but I learned so much about life from watching him die. He was awake and alert until the night before he died. He went into a coma and passed away with all of his family around him the next morning. Your body begins to shut down the closer you are to death and you sleep a lot more. I thought it might be scary, but that was not the case. He was still my friend, just more tired. Suicide is not the answer. The family members you leave behind will have to struggle with that decision for the rest of their lives. Please vote against the suicide bill. Sharon


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