Initiative proposal is a death trap
The Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/24/2011 12:14:42 PM EDT
On paper, the Death with Dignity Act sounds like a medical plan whose time has come. Between the lines, however, the proposal, which would allow terminally ill patients to take their own lives with the aid of a licensed physician, is morally unacceptable and a debasement of the sanctity of human life.
The notion that a sweet-sounding title — Death with Dignity — could camouflage the raw intent of this proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative is insulting to residents and voters alike.
Anyway you look at it, the initiative is nothing more than physician-assisted suicide with industrialized-strength oversight.
Remember how President Obama and Democrats tried to sneak “death panels” into Obamacare? Even if the intent was mischaracterized by critics — and it wasn’t — the provision would have opened the door to codification on dealing with patients who were deemed too ill to receive extended medical care. It was right out of a Dickens’ classic: Get rid of the surplus population.
The same can be said of the DWD proposal, being pushed from an out-of-state group that wants to make Massachusetts its signature state for a countrywide campaign. The fact that a ballot initiative allows an end-around from the state Legislature should tell voters that this is a special-interest effort more than an effort in the interest of the people.
Massachusetts doesn’t need such a law. The doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical services in the Bay State are among the
best in the world. Physicians have been dealing with life-ending decisions with patients and families for decades. And these decisions have been made with compassion and extreme care. There has been no over-arching demand in this state to provide a blueprint for medical-guided patient death — from suffering patients or physicians.
We may sound harsh, but DWD appears to be nothing more than a way to reduce care and cut medical costs for terminally ill patients who are seemingly beyond medical treatment for a cure. We rue the day when a physician or two can decide beyond a hint of doubt that all hope is lost for a living, breathing human being and work to convince the patient to end their life.
In a commentary printed in The Sun (Sept. 26), Dr. Marcia Angell noted that two other states, Oregon and Washington, have enacted a similar DWD statue as proposed here. In Oregon, DWD has accounted for 525 deaths since 1997 when the law took effect. That’s 0.2 percent of all Oregon deaths over that period.
The percentage may seem small to some, it is no less disturbing to think that 525 patients — mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — had family members approve a “dignified” suicide for their loved ones with two physicians as prescribed by the law. There is no such thing as “dignified” suicide, nor can there be.
The Massachusetts Coalition for Choice is now in the process of gathering 69,000 signatures from registered voters in order to get this initiative on the state’s 2012 ballot. Normally, The Sun is in favor of putting all discussion before the voters to decide, clearly believing that the democratic process will arrive at the right decision. But this is one debate that is unnecessary. We find it repulsive to ordain a life-ending law in Massachusetts. Think twice before you sign this petition.