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Massachusetts ballot on assisted dying narrowly defeated

A divisive ballot initiative that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with medication prescribed by physicians was narrowly defeated. The Death with Dignity Campaign conceded this morning, as unofficial results tallied by the Associated Press showed that, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, 51 percent of voters had opposed the measure, compared with 49 percent in favor. Reports from The Globe of Boston and Death with Dignity National Center of Portland say:

 

Death with Dignity National Center :

Despite strong early support for Death with Dignity in Massachusetts the final vote tally didn’t give more Americans another end-of-life option. In the end, the opponents’ enormous smear campaign based on fear and misinformation won the day. But the foundation for support has been built, and we’ll keep working to make sure voters in Massachusetts and other states get the facts they need for an open and honest debate about Death with Dignity.

Together, we’ve changed the entire conversation around end-of-life care policy reform. A little over a year ago, many people in Massachusetts and throughout New England started hearing about Death with Dignity laws for the first time, and since that time, the need for these carefully crafted laws has been a hot topic on television programs, news publications, blogs, editorial columns, and countless letters to editors.

Polls showed people were ready for a Death with Dignity law in Massachusetts, and many shared their stories with the public at an unprecedented level. One such person is Jim Carberry.  He, like so many of you who’ve come to support Death with Dignity, watched a loved one die a long, painful, and protracted death. His wife, Margie didn’t have the option to die on her own terms in the final stages of her terminal illness—something she so desperately wanted after her tumor aggressively returned in 2007.

She wanted to survive long enough to see their daughters graduate from high school and endured many invasive medical procedures to keep her body functional through those milestones. She was out of curative treatment options. Even after chemotherapy was no longer helping, she worked with her medical team to keep her body going.

Margie lived to see both of their daughters graduate, and through both graduations she was radiant, a proud mother who celebrated her daughters’ achievements. A week after graduation, she spoke with her family, clergy, and medical team and decided to remove her feeding tube and meet death on her terms.

Though she was ready, she suffered another five weeks before her body gave out. Margie wanted the option to shorten her suffering, but that option doesn’t yet exist in her state.


The Globe:

“For the past year, the people of Massachusetts participated in an open and honest conversation about allowing terminally ill patients the choice to end their suffering,” the campaign said in a statement released at 6:30 a.m. “The Death with Dignity Act offered the terminally ill the right to make that decision for themselves, but regrettably, we fell short. Our grassroots campaign was fueled by thousands of people from across this state, but outspent five to one by groups opposed to individual choice.

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”.

The ballot question has been the subject of a ferocious political battle. After a Boston Globe poll in September showed voters overwhelmingly supported the measure, support steadily eroded in the face of a last-minute effort by a diverse group of opponents, including religious leaders, anti-abortion activists, and conservatives who aired their message in aggressive television advertisements and at church services. The concerted opposition campaign, which also included a major physician’s group, raised more than three times as much money as proponents.

In a statement, Rosanne Bacon Meade, chairperson of the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, said that while some votes remain to be counted, the efforts to stop the measure had been successful. She added that she hoped the result would spark discussions about how to improve medical care at the end of life.

“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,” Meade said in the statement. “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.

Tuesday’s vote demonstrates that the people of the Commonwealth recognize that the common good was best served in defeating Question 2,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley said in a statement.

Massachusetts would have followed Oregon and Washington, which have passed similar initiatives to allow terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs from physicians. Donations to opposition groups, which raised nearly $2.6 million, came from far-flung Catholic dioceses, fuelled in part by fear of a domino effect if the measure were to gain a foothold in Massachusetts.

 

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