As I mentioned in weeks past, I co-wrote the following opinion piece as a member of the Fr. John F. Hogan Council #14236 of the Knights of Columbus. Our council serves the St. Julie Billart & St. Mary’s Catholic parishes in Dartmouth. I’m a 4th Degree Knight.
This “Your View” was published in today’s edition of the Standard-Times and submitted by our Grand Knight, Chris Pereira (who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Dartmouth Republican Town Committee).
There is no dignity when the government permits suicide. Ballot Question 2 to be voted upon on Election Day, Nov. 6, is a prescription for death and disaster. We must embrace a culture of life and not devalue our family and friends out of a false sense of compassion and dignity. We, the Knights of Columbus of the Fr. John F. Hogan Council No. 14236 of Dartmouth urge our fraternal brothers, fellow Catholics, persons of all faiths and our fellow citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to vote no on Question 2.
Question 2 is tragically titled the “Death with Dignity Act,” but it is more accurate and honest to call the ballot proposal what it really is, physician-assisted suicide. The proposed law would permit doctors upon request to prescribe a lethal dose of a drug that would cause death to any patient who has been told by two doctors they have less than six months to live.
The proposal is a poorly written, confusing, and severely flawed ballot question that can have grave unintended consequences to terminally ill patients and their families. The six-month standard is arbitrary and the fact is that many doctors admit that life-expectancy estimates are often wrong, no matter their length. Question 2 may lead to premature deaths of those in the most tender stages of life.
Furthermore, the ballot question lacks the safeguards needed to make sure patients learn about other approaches to their difficult diagnoses, thus avoiding preventable suicides. Those patients subject to physician-assisted suicide are not required to see either a psychologist or psychiatrist. Physicians prescribing lethal drug doses are not required to refer a patient for mental health evaluation. Under Question 2, the attending or consulting physician would be the sole authority to judge the need for counseling. People who are ill but also suffer from treatable depression may have their lives ended prematurely rather than receiving effective psychological care.
Question 2 is a recipe for abuse, especially for our elderly. Important provisions of the act would allow an heir, including a potentially abusive caregiver, to serve as a witness to help sign the patient up for the lethal drugs. No witnesses are required.
Joining our coalition of diverse organizations in opposition to physician-assisted suicide are disability rights and hospice care groups that include, but are not limited to, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Hospice and Palliative Care Federation, and the American Medical Directors Association. The ballot question provides no resources or even the authority to investigate violations or provide oversight.
Even those who might otherwise favor permitting the ending life for the terminally ill prior to their natural death recognize that the incredibly flawed, poorly worded language of Question 2 should not pass given its lack of safeguards and checks against abuse. The Commonwealth’s priority should be on expanding access to palliative and hospice end-of-life care that will relieve and prevent suffering. Together, let us all support truly compassionate care for our brothers and sisters through their natural, and not untimely, deaths. We must not approve legal suicide.
On Election Day, Nov. 6, please vote no on Question 2 and defeat physician-assisted suicide.