Boston Globe: Vote NO on Assisted Suicide

Today the Boston Globe Editorial team published an editorial where they voiced opposition to Question 2.  This is good news.  Here is one of the best passages:

And rather than bring society to a consensus on how to approach the end of life, Question 2 adds new and divisive questions to the mix: Should doctors actually help people die more quickly, rather than merely withhold treatment? Does such a regimen serve to weaken society’s belief that lives — even those of the seriously ill, or severely disabled — have value and are worth living?

The entire editorial is below, with passages highlighted by BCI for emphasis.  We suggest you pass this around to friends, family members, or co-workers who still may be enlightened by reading this.

End-of-life discussions, care should come before Question 2

Massachusetts, like most of the United States, has been in a woeful state of denial about the way its medical system handles the end of life. Too often, doctors shy away from frank discussions with terminally ill patients about their options — from continuing treatment, to palliative care, to some combination of both. Worse, society is so scared of such conversations — so conflicted about how far doctors should go in declaring a patient’s condition to be terminal, so reluctant to ever give up hope — that many insurers, including Medicare, don’t even cover the cost of an end-of-life conversation. Instead, they keep plowing money into treatments, while too many lives end in hospital beds, after unnecessarily painful side effects from unsuccessful drugs and devices.

Now, like a clanging wake-up call, comes the Question 2 “death with dignity” ballot initiative, which would establish procedures under which doctors could prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. It draws heavily on the experiences of the two states that allow so-called physician-assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington. But it’s not, in itself, an answer to the far deeper question of how to help patients make end-of-life decisions.

Even in Oregon, which first approved physician-assisted suicide in 1994, only 71 people took advantage of it last year. Most were cancer patients. But many other dying patients, from those with degenerative physical conditions like Lou Gehrig’s disease to those with mental deterioration from Alzheimer’s and other conditions, weren’t eligible because they couldn’t satisfy both the requirement of mental fitness and the ability to administer the drugs themselves.

And rather than bring society to a consensus on how to approach the end of life, Question 2 adds new and divisive questions to the mix: Should doctors actually help people die more quickly, rather than merely withhold treatment? Does such a regimen serve to weaken society’s belief that lives — even those of the seriously ill, or severely disabled — have value and are worth living?

Such questions draw on individual beliefs and morals, and defy practical analysis. Reasonable people can disagree passionately about Question 2, but a yes vote would not serve the larger interests of the state. Rather than bring Massachusetts closer to an agreed-upon set of procedures for approaching the end of life, it would be a flashpoint and distraction — the maximum amount of moral conflict for a very modest gain.

Instead, Massachusetts should commit itself to a rigorous exploration of end-of-life issues, with the goal of bringing the medical community, insurers, religious groups, and state policy makers into agreement on how best to help individuals handle terminal illnesses and die on their own terms.

Most importantly, patients need a realistic assessment of their disease, its prognosis, and the range of treatment options before them. Access to palliative care, psychiatric therapy, and hospice nurses are already covered by Medicare and most insurers. Such services may sound elaborate, but are actually far less costly than the intensive care that so often attends last-ditch treatments.

Physician-assisted suicide should be the last option on the table, to be explored in a thorough legislative process only after the state guarantees that all its patients have access to all the alternatives, including palliative care. Question 2, which would require that two licensed physicians confirm that patients have less than six months to live but are competent to make their own decisions, has drawn the opposition of the Massachusetts Medical Society, which argues that physicians shouldn’t be put in the position of ending people’s lives.

Further, the society argues, physician-assisted suicide is unnecessary in light of patients’ “right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including hospice and palliative sedation.” The medical society’s position is reasonable, but too few patients get the information necessary to assert those rights. It’s up to the state’s physicians to take the lead in making sure that patients are aware of their options and take full advantage of them; all available evidence suggests that many more would do so, if only they had the proper information and encouragement.

Then, and only then, would the need for physician-assisted suicide become apparent. If the process of dying becomes more manageable, more dignified, and more comfortable, then fewer patients would seek to hasten it along. Doctors would be spared a vexing set of decisions. The seriousness with which the state is approaching Question 2 is, in itself, an indictment of the current state of end-of-life care. More than a cry for physician-assisted suicide, it’s a plea for greater dignity at the end of life. And that request, at least, should be answered.

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10 Responses to Boston Globe: Vote NO on Assisted Suicide

  1. Jack Shaughnessy, Sr. says:

    BCI : one of the very few occasions that the Globe is one the right side of any issue that is supportive of Christian values or conservative causes. Jack S.

    Sent from my Motorola Smartphone on the Now Network from Sprint!

  2. DBP says:

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  3. Bill H says:

    BCI, thanks for sharing this. I’m with Jack Shaughnessy–it’s great to see the Globe finally come down on the right side of an issue like this.

    Everyone who cares about this important issue and that Catholic values are preserved in the election are invited to join for an Election Eve Mass and Rosary at St. Clements Eucharistic Shrine in Boston. Rosary at 7:30pm, Mass at 8pm.

    • Objective Observer says:

      Bill H,

      Thanks so much for letting us know about this gathering at Saint Clements. There is nothing to be preferred to prayer when the going gets tough.

      Another idea: I am part of a group saying a daily rosary dedicated to Our Lady of Victories to ask for help with this election in general.

  4. Stephen says:

    Massachusetts Medical Society;
    “…is unnecessary in light of patients’ “right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including hospice and palliative sedation.”

    Just to clarify. Already today in the culture of death I can refuse lifesaving treatment like CPR, and a feeding tube and I can ask for and receive (or through implied consent) a Doctors order for palliative sedation (put me to sleep and don’t wake me up, ever) which will lead to my death through starvation.

    And question 2 is controversial why?
    The boomers are facing their mortality.
    I’m not sure if it is in the latest CCC but heaven, hell, death and judgment are forever the 4 last things.

    Perhaps a ‘Visit the elderly and shut in’ campaign would have been a more prudent and christian move for the diocese. I am sure some ‘strategist’ thought better. gag.

    Vote Mitt or burn in hell.

    Still confused?
    Obama voted for infanticide in Illinois and has NEVER recanted.

    Question 2: another padlock on the empty barn.

    • ISEESOLUTIONS says:

      Stephen,

      Good thinking……..except do not limit the message to the elderly and shut ins: Some of them may be happier than you!!

      Maybe each parish can reach out with a more personal message, i.e.

      “Give Us the Chance….To Restore Your Hope”

      Please contact:************ @ 111-123-1234 to discuss
      how we can serve you and include you in our parish community.

  5. ANNE says:

    Euthanasia is one of the Intrinsic Evils.

    CCC: ” 2324 Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.

    CCC: ” 2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
    Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. ”

    CCC: ” 2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment.
    Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. ”

    CCC: ” 2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged

    And the most important quote of all: – “THOU SHALL NOT KILL” – God.

  6. A very few people are pushing this. Some want it and then change their minds. WE NEED MORE PRAYERS!!
    GOD IS THE ONLY ANSWER TO KEEPING SIN DOWN!
    PLEASE GOD HELP US!!!!!!

  7. Liam says:

    This is the most important matter to vote in the MA ballot; the elections are lagniappe by comparison.

  8. ANNE says:

    Liam, a vote for OBAMA supports euthanasia.
    His Administration has already put into practice the fining $ $ $ $ of hospitals when there is re-admittance to the hospital within a certain period of time for the same illness – for the elderly age group only.

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