Assisted suicide looks headed for defeat in Massachusetts

W. James Antle III Managing Editor
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A Massachusetts ballot initiative that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide in the state appears unlikely to pass. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Question 2 was failing 51 percent to 49 percent.

As late as September, polls showed overwhelming support for the measure. But polls tightened late after a diverse coalition of religious groups (most notably the Archdiocese of Boston), abortion opponents, and activists for the disabled rallied opposition.

The Boston Globe reported that opponents of assisted suicide raised $2.6 million to defeat the referendum question, while proponents brought in just $700,000.

Question 2 would allow terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending drugs from physicians, emulating laws in Oregon and Washington. But questions arose about safeguards to protect seriously ill people with psychiatric problems and the broader public from untracked medications.

Victoria Kennedy, the widow of longtime Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, came out against the initiative.

“My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life,” she wrote in an op-ed for a Cape Code newspaper. “Question 2 turns his vision of health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide — not patient care — as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life.”

Kennedy called the measure a “prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone.”

One Boston voter who voted against Question 2 told the Globe, “I’m actually in favor of assisted suicide, but not how this is written.”

Proponents of the initiative hope the remaining outstanding ballots will erase the 38,000-vote deficit preventing its passage.

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