Boston Archdiocesan Execs Fail to Support Defeat of Assisted Suicide

November 28, 2012

In our last post, “Inside the Defeat of Question 2″, we talked about defeating Question 2 (physician assisted suicide) from the perspective of the public campaign waged by diocesan PR firm, Rasky Baerlein.  Today we shift perspectives to tell you who from the Boston Archdiocese contributed financially to the campaign and who did not.  Public records show that nearly all of the Boston Archdiocese lay executives who are paid $150K+ a year from the archdiocese did not contribute financially towards the diocese-supported issue advocacy campaign to defeat physician assisted suicide.  For those high-paid lay diocesan execs who neither contributed financially to the campaign nor worked to defeat the ballot measure in other ways, this raises a number of questions.

This report from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) gives a listing of everyone who contributed to the main opposition initiative, the Boston archdiocesan-backed Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, whose strategy and campaign was run by Rasky Baerlein.  The total contributions were $4.3M.  When you look at who gave and did not give, the inevitable conclusions are astonishing.

Here is who gave personal contributions from their own bank account:

  • Vicar General, Bishop-elect Robert Deeley (who makes about $41K/year) gave $200.
  • Secretary for Faith Formation Janet Benestad (who makes $140K/year) gave $500.
  • Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare Fr. Bryan Hehir (a Harvard Kennedy School professor paid $0 by the RCAB and paid only by Harvard, where the average professor salary is $198K) gave $200.
  • Pro-life Office Director, Marianne Luthin (who makes considerably less than $100K) gave $1,000.
  • Catholic Schools Campaign Vice President of Development, Mary Myers (Flynn) gave $100.

That is as far as we can tell quickly, but perhaps we missed someone. While we see a St. Johns seminarian, who earns no income and is planning to give his life to God, gave $200, only one of the 17-odd people making six-figure salaries above $150K gave a buck or more to this important initiative. (See “Up in Alms over Salaries” and “Bloated Payroll: Inaction).

Here are the highest-paid lay executives people who earn about $150K or more and who made no financial contribution to the campaign:

  • Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education/schools superintendent: $325K
  • Beirne Lovely, General Counsel: $300K
  • Scot Landry, Secretary for Catholic Media: $250K
  • Kathleen Driscoll, Secretary for Institutional Advancement: $230-250K est.
  • John Straub, Chancellor: $200K-$225K est.
  • Mark Dunderdale: Director of Office of Professional Standards: $200K
  • James Walsh, Assistant Schools Superintendent: $185K
  • Francis O’Connor: Assistant Gen. Counsel: $180K
  • Terry Donilon: Communications Secretary: $162k
  • Jim McEnness: Director of Risk: $154K

The other people who make $150K+ a year have not had their salaries publicly published yet, but they include:

  • Joseph D’Arrigo, Executive Director, Clergy Benefits
  • Mary Doorley, Vice President of Development
  • Carol Gustavson, Executive Director, Lay Benefits and Building Services
  • Steven McDevitt, Director of IT

Add them all up, and, as we said in “Bloated Payroll” earlier this year, you get about $3.5M in salaries, not counting benefits.  A year ago September, their boss, Cardinal O’Malley called on Catholics to oppose physician-assisted suicide, saying, “We are called upon to defend the gospel of life with courage and resolve.”  Yet except for one lay exec, none of them could even muster $50 to give to a campaign to stop an initiative that Cardinal O’Malley recently called a “terrible assault on human life.

A lot of people should be asking why these high-paid lay executives did not give anything to the campaign. (Nor, curiously, did anyone who works for Rasky Baerlein, the folks who ran the campaign give to their own campaign).  One can only guess it must have been one of the following reasons:

  1. They knew about the campaign and its importance, but did not necessarily agree with the Rasky Baerlein strategy or how Rasky was spending money, and instead contributed their time and energies to other ways of helping defeat Question 2.
  2. They were somehow oblivious to the campaign, its importance and need for donations
  3. They felt they were working toward the defeat of Q2 in their day-job already and thus did not need to give any personal contribution
  4. They wanted to contribute but did not have the personal funds to give anything, despite earning $150K/year in salary, so they prayed instead
  5. They knew about the campaign, its importance and need for donations, but felt enough other people and organizations were giving, so their contribution was unnecessary
  6. They view their employment with the archdiocese as a job, not a vocation or part of contributing to the mission of the Catholic Church. They do their job and collect their substantial paycheck, and that is it.
  7. They did not support the defeat of Question 2, and were in favor of physician-assisted suicide
  8. Some other reason not listed above

Note, there were two other campaigns opposing physician-assisted suicide–those run by Second Thoughts or the MCFL-backed Massachusetts Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide- No on 2.  We checked both of those lists, and did not find donations by these lay execs there either. If someone gave but did not make it to one of these reports, please let us know and we will issue a correction.

If the reason above for folks not contributing was #1, that makes good sense, and we take back any implied criticism for those in that category.  Furthermore, BCI cannot judge what is in the hearts and minds of these lay executives who work for the Boston Archdiocese. But, for the vast majority of these people, their day jobs had them doing nothing whatsoever to help defeat Question 2. So, unless these execs were out there in the trenches trying to sway people in their local region (which our sources say most were not), it is tough to understand why they did not at least do something for the cause by contributing.  For someone paid extremely well by the Boston Archdiocese who embraces the saving mission of the Catholic Church, why would they not be able to dig into their pocket to donate even $50 to this crucial initiative that the Cardinal Archbishop was obviously very committed to and their own moral compass should have told them to oppose.  What does that say?

The problem of high paid lay archdiocesan execs is allowed to continue, in part, by folks who BCI will call “the enablers.” These are the big donors and supporters of the Catholic Appeal who keep giving and keep encouraging other Catholics to give money, when no action has been taken still to address the problem of excessive six-figure salaries (or many other problems) that have gone on for many years.  They never tell Cardinal O’Malley, “I am stopping my donations to the appeal until you take dramatic, visible action to cut the excessive six-figure salaries that are wasting my contributions.”Nor do they tell the Cardinal, “I am stopping my donations to the appeal until you remove people from your team and advisory circle whose efforts work against the Catholic Church in the public square.”  Instead, they attend or sponsor gatherings of big donors and get their photos taken with the Cardinal.  An example is seen in a recent blog post by the Cardinal and Pilot pickup.  John and Kristine DeMatteo recently hosted a Cardinal’s Leadership Circle event in their Wellesley home.  As best as BCI can tell from here, they are known to be solid Catholics with a strong commitment to their family and pro-life and pro-family causes.  John contributed $5,000 to the Committee Against Assisted Suicide. They give a lot to the Catholic Appeal and their names appear on lists of donors to other pro-life and pro-family causes. They will, no doubt, be upset to see their names published here at BCI.

Do the DeMatteo’s and others like them not believe their donations to the Catholic Appeal are being squandered on excessive six-figure salaries?  If so, what do they do to change that?  We also wonder how they will feel knowing they gave a generous contribution to defeat the ballot measure, but at the same time, none but one of the archdiocesan execs whose $150K+ salaries are, in part, paid by the DeMatteo’s generous support of the Catholic Appeal, gave a penny to that campaign.  If anyone knows the DeMatteos, drop them an email or drop a dime and ask them to bring this matter up with Cardinal O’Malley directly.

To be clear, our issue in this post is not about priests, who make low pay and work tirelessly in their parishes or other ministries, or with lay people who worked against physician-assisted suicide in ways other than financially contributing to the campaign. But when it comes to high-paid archdiocesan execs, BCI thinks Catholics should be rip-roaring mad that most of them neither gave a penny to support a highly visible, extremely important campaign opposing a “terrible assault on human life” nor gave their time and energies to opposing the measure in other ways.  If their job function did not give them a role to work against the measure,  and their financial means permitted it, the least we should expect is that their moral conscience and commitment to the saving mission of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church would have compelled them to do something or contribute financially. We think this is a big part of the problem in the Boston Archdiocese today. What do you think?


Inside the Defeat of Question 2: Rasky Baerlein

November 25, 2012

By now, just about everyone has shared their take on how the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, along with a coalition of many other organizations. helped get 51% of voters in Massachusetts to vote No on Question 2–the ballot measure that would have legalized physician assisted suicide in Massachusetts.  There has been much patting each other on the back publicly and privately.  BCI was hoping by now that others would have shared all of the key information., but alas, that has not happened. So, in the next few blog posts, we felt we should weigh-in to give you some some additional information you might not have been aware of.

For starters, we again commend Cardinal O’Malley, the team from the Boston Archdiocese, and all who worked on this effort for the win. There were actually two coalitions–the main and best-funded group was the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide (whose strategy and campaign was led by Rasky Baerlein, and which included the Catholic Bishops along with other religious faiths), but there was a second key group, No on Question 2, (whose strategy and campaign was led by the Wayne Johnson Agency, and which included patient and disability rights organizations, Second Thoughts, Mass Citizens for Life, and others).  Given the dismal poll in September that showed we were behind 68% to 19%, the comeback was a major accomplishment. Cardinal O’Malley wrote a number of excellent columns in The Pilot, the television and radio ads produced by several different groups were well-done and effective, and the effort to move public opinion worked. We posted a number of times on why people should have voted NO, and we were delighted that the ballot measure was defeated. Here are a few of the articles on the topic that came out discussing the win:

O’Malley lauds defeat of doctor-assisted suicide bill (Boston Globe)

Boston Cardinal Lauds Rejection of Assisted-Suicide Bill (National Catholic Register)

Mass. voters say no to assisted suicide (The Boston Pilot)

Inclusion key in anti-suicide drive (The Washington Times)

Now that we have duly expressed accolades to everyone for their efforts that resulted in defeating Question 2, we need to look at the rest of the story. Lest everyone locally and in other parts of the country conclude the Massachusetts experience is the model for the future, we need to remove the rose-colored glasses and look at a few things that did not make it into the media coverage about the 51%-49% win for our side.

Bad Advice from Political Consulting Firm

First of all, while the political consulting firm, Rasky Baerlein, is busy congratulating themselves publicly on how they overcame the “insurmountable task” of convincing Massachusetts voters to vote No on Question 2 despite initial research showing most voters felt people should be able to make their own end-of-life decisions, somehow Rasky is forgetting to mention how it was their advice to stay silent until the last minute that left us in the precarious situation of being behind by 48 points a month before the vote. Though Cardinal O’Malley kept a regular stream of columns going in The Pilot, priests and lay people were asking all during the summer what was going on with the near-total blackout by the rest of the Boston Archdiocese on this issue until Labor Day–both in parishes and in the public discourse. Rasky Baerlein, who has an undefeated record on ballot questions, and who, coincidentally, is staffed by a considerable number of Obama donors and former Joe Biden campaign staff, told the archdiocese to hit the “pause” button on educational efforts–they had it all figured out.  It is explained in this excellent piece by Fr. Roger Landry:

Finally, we need to grasp why we were trailing 68-19 percent a month from the election and never make the same mistake again. Polls at the beginning of the year showed us trailing 43-37 percent. At the terrible advice of the political consultants advising the Church, however, we basically suspended all educational efforts until after Labor Day and even pulled superb educational materials from the Internet. The other side was able to advance its arguments when our side muted itself voluntarily. Few knew what was even on the ballot, not to mention why Question 2 should be defeated. Thanks be to God, we had just enough time to triumph at the end, but we should never have been down as much as we were. The Church’s educational efforts should be ongoing and never muzzled. And they should continue now all the more, because what we’ve just won is but one important victory in a much larger war in defense of human dignity.

He is absolutely right–we should never have been down by as much as we were.  The geniuses at Rasky Baerlein made that happen, with management oversight from none other than Terry Donilon and Fr. Bryan Hehir.  Then, to make up for their flawed advice and lack of an effective ground-game, in the final minutes of the ball game, we had to raise and spend nearly $5 million dollars for the “air cover”, media program and overhead fees.

Cost of the Campaign

It was important to win this one and not let the assisted suicide folks get victory in Massachusetts and New England beachhead.  But it cost a lot of money to win, especially because of the approach Rasky took, or failed to take.  From the Boston Archdiocese and related entities, the Boston Archdiocese contributed $250K in cash, plus $80K in in-kind donations, Boston Catholic TV contributed $1 million, and St. Johns Seminary also gave $1 million. Most agencies like Rasky charge about 10-15% in agency fees on top of any production costs–namely for research, creative development, website development, overhead/profit on media purchases and project management.  Of the total Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide expenses of $4.3M, records Rasky made a handsome $366K in agency profit for their work.  Oh by the way, did we mention how Rasky returned a $250K donation from the American Family Association merely because they are pro-family and support the centuries-old definition of marriage as the permanent union of a man and woman?   They did not want any controversy because AFA was seen as “anti-gay.”  Also, Rasky had spent nearly $600K before Sept 1 on something or other, without ever launching a single ad.

What Rasky Does Not Know they Do Not Know

Rasky thinks they know web marketing and social media.  They pitched the archdiocese on that and spent a small fortune of around $115K just building a website. Someone needs to tell them they know next to nothing in this area.  Dozens of people who visited the website of the Committee Against Assisted Suicide wrote to BCI and asked, “What’s with this?”  Why should someone “sign the petition”?  It was a citizen’s ballot initiative–for crying out loud, what was a petition for?  To give to whom?  It was stupid–just ask people to sign-up for an email update list.  “Tell a friend”?  OK, I upload all of my friends names and then I have to compose my own message too?  What good is that?  People sent email messages to the contact email address and told BCI they never got responses.

BCI could go much further, but will pause for now.  In our next installment, we will discuss the risks facing us after the win, where there were pitfalls, and how and where we really won the battle. In the end, we won, and that was most important. But if we intend to learn from the past so as to do better in the future, we need to take off the rose-colored glasses and look at the cup from the vantage point of being both half-full and half-empty.  More next time.


Boston Globe: Vote NO on Assisted Suicide

November 2, 2012

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.


Kennedy Widow says “No” on Assisted Suicide

October 31, 2012

A poll just out Tuesday shows that support for Question 2–Physician Assisted Suicide–has plummeted in the past month.  The ballot measure that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal pills to an ailing patient had 64 percent support a month ago, and after extensive public education campaigns getting the truth out, now the polls show 47 percent support it and 41 percent oppose it.  That is very good news.

Equally good news is an Op-Ed column in the Cape Cod Times by the widow of Ted Kennedy, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, opposing Question 2.  For today on this post, please hold back your criticism of the Kennedy’s for other matters where that criticism is warranted.  This blog post is about Physician Assisted Suicide, and though we may have legitimate beefs with the Kennedy’s on other issues, this particular blog post is not the time or place for them.  BCI thinks it is good to see a public figure, such as one of the Kennedy family, come out publicly and oppose Question 2.  In fact, you may want to share this column with people you know who tend to vote with the Democratic Party and who currently support Question 2.

Without further delay, here is the column:

Question 2 insults Kennedy’s memory

By VICTORIA REGGIE KENNEDY
October 27, 2012

There is nothing more personal or private than the end of a family member’s life, and I totally respect the view that everyone else should just get out of the way. I wish we could leave it that way. Unfortunately, Question 2, the so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative, forces that issue into the public square and places the government squarely in the middle of a private family matter. I do not judge nor intend to preach to others about decisions they make at the end of life, but I believe we’re all entitled to know the facts about the law we’re being asked to enact.

Here’s the truth. The language of the proposed law is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions; it’s intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients’ being pressured to end their lives prematurely. It’s not about doctors administering drugs such as morphine to ease patients’ suffering; it’s about the oral ingestion of up to 100 capsules without requirement or expectation that a doctor be present. It’s not about giving choice and self-determination to patients with degenerative diseases like ALS or Alzheimer’s; those patients are unlikely to qualify under the statute. It’s not, in my judgment, about death with dignity at all.

My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life. 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. We’re better than that. We should expand palliative care, pain management, nursing care and hospice, not trade the dignity and life of a human being for the bottom line.

Most of us wish for a good and happy death, with as little pain as possible, surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside. But under Question 2, what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone. That seems harsh and extreme to me.

Question 2 is supposed to apply to those with a life expectancy of six months or less. But even doctors admit that’s unknowable. When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he’d never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir “True Compass,” while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Because that first dire prediction of life expectancy was wrong, I have 15 months of cherished memories — memories of family dinners and songfests with our children and grandchildren; memories of laughter and, yes, tears; memories of life that neither I nor my husband would have traded for anything in the world.

When the end finally did come — natural death with dignity — my husband was home, attended by his doctor, surrounded by family and our priest.

I know we were blessed. I am fully aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did. But if Question 2 passes I can’t help but feel we’re sending the message that they’re not even entitled to a chance. A chance to have more time with their loved ones. A chance to have more dinners and sing more songs. A chance for more kisses and more love. A chance to be surrounded by family or clergy or a doctor when the end does come. That seems cruel to me. And lonely. And sad.

My husband used to paraphrase H.L. Mencken: for every complex problem, there’s a simple easy answer. And it’s wrong.

That’s how I feel in this case. And that’s why I’m going to vote no on Question 2.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy is an attorney, health care advocate and widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

(To email the original Cape Cod Times column to others, go here, and then click on Email this ArticleEmail this Article)


What about do no harm?: Globe Columnist on Assisted Suicide

October 20, 2012

There were two excellent columns in the Boston Globe this past week about the topic of assisted suicide–one by Jeff Jacoby and one by Liz Walker.  Both bear reading in their entirety and sharing with others.  A lot of people, including Catholics, still think if a relative is suffering and nearing death, assisted suicide is a good thing.  Anyone who reads this column by Jeff Jacoby or the one by Liz Walker will probably come away thinking differently.  Here is most of the Jacoby column:

What about do no harm?
Suicide is not health care, and prescribing death is not a doctor’s role
by Jeff Jacoby

If Hippocrates, the “father of Western medicine,” were alive today, would he favor Question 2, the Massachusetts ballot initiative to authorize doctor-prescribed suicide?

Presumably not: The celebrated code of medical ethics that bears his name, which physicians for centuries took an oath to uphold, flatly forbids assisted suicide. “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked,” the Hippocratic oath avows, “nor will I advise such a plan.”

Some things never change, and one of them is the beguiling idea that doctors should be able to help patients kill themselves when incurable disease makes their lives unbearable. The advocates of Question 2 speak feelingly of the anguish of the terminally ill, suffering from awful symptoms that will only grow worse, and desperate to avoid the agonies to come. Not all of those agonies involve physical pain: Even worse for many people is the loss of autonomy, the mortifying collapse of bowel and bladder control, the intense unwillingness to be a burden to others, the existential despair of just waiting for death.

Question 2’s supporters call their proposal the “Death with Dignity Act.” As a matter of compassion and respect, they argue, we should allow dying patients to choose an early death when they decide their suffering is more than they can endure. “People have control over their lives,” says Dr. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and lead petitioner of the Massachusetts ballot measure. “They ought to have control over their deaths.”

There is nothing new about this contention. The claim that assisted suicide can be an appropriate aspect of patient care, especially when the alternative is drawn-out misery inexorably ending in death, has been made since antiquity. Hippocrates heard the arguments too; then as now they exerted an undeniable emotional pull. There is a reason the Hippocratic oath obliged new doctors to stand firm against it.

Civilized societies do not encourage people to commit suicide, or seek ways to make it easier for them to do so. Individuals may choose, out of pain or heartache or hopelessness, to end their lives; tragically, thousands of Americans do so every year. But “tragically” is the operative word. A libertarian purist might insist that human beings have the right to dispose of their lives as they see fit. That doesn’t change the fundamental principle that life is precious and suicide is a tragedy.

Only a moral cretin yells “Jump!” to the man on the high bridge who wants to end it all. No matter how compelling and genuinely desperate that man’s reasons are — even if he is suffering from an incurable disease, with just months to live and only physical pain, nausea, and the loss of bodily control awaiting him — we don’t seek ways to facilitate his suicide. On the contrary, we seek ways to avert it. “High bridges often have signs encouraging troubled individuals to seek help rather than jump,” writes Greg Pfundstein in an essay at Public Discourse, the Witherspoon Institute’s online journal. “Suicide hotlines are open 24 hours a day because we hope to prevent as many suicides as possible.”

Question 2 would turn that premise inside out. Massachusetts voters aren’t just being asked to authorize doctors to prescribe fatal drugs for the terminally ill. They are being asked to endorse a view that our ethical culture at its best has always abhorred: that certain lives aren’t worth living. That there are times when people should jump — indeed, that there is nothing wrong with making it easier for them to do so.

Question 2’s provisions are highly arbitrary, as even its proponents acknowledge. It allows only one kind of suicide to be prescribed: drugs that can be swallowed, but not a lethal injection — let alone a bullet or a noose. It requires a prognosis of no more than six months to live.

Why such capricious line-drawing? Because, says Angell, that is the only way to make assisted suicide “politically acceptable.” Her candor is admirable. But it doesn’t extend to Question 2, which provides that death certificates for patients who commit doctor-prescribed suicide will falsely list the underlying disease as the cause of death.

Suicide is not health care, and prescribing death is no role for a doctor. Hippocrates would reject Question 2. Massachusetts voters should too.


Commercial: Oppose Physician Assisted Suicide (Rational)

October 17, 2012

The first television, Internet and radio commercials are out from the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, whose PR campaign is being run by Rasky Baerlein.  These started running this week.

Click here for the first radio ad.

Though BCI does not exactly hold Rasky Baerlein in the highest regard for reasons covered here before (and their management ranks are filled with former Joe Biden campaign people), we think these ads–clearly intended to appeal a secular audience–are well-done.

We need to defeat this evil ballot measure, so spread the word about the ads to friends and family members.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 559 other followers

%d bloggers like this: