.- Efforts are underway to fight a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would allow doctors to assist patients in ending their lives.
âThereâs nothing dignified about suicide,â said the Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide, âand thereâs nothing compassionate about encouraging it or presenting it as a rational alternative.â
The alliance argued that âencouraging self-destructionâ is completely unnecessary when âhospice and palliative care are common and highly developed.â
Supporters of assisted suicide have succeeded in placing a measure to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts.
The initiative would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to patients with terminal conditions seeking to end their lives.
Critics of the measure argue that it fails to respect the dignity of human life and promotes the message that suffering renders life unworthy of living.
In an April 13 statement, the alliance applauded the Vermont Senate for defeating a similar bill and called on the people of Massachusetts to reject the stateâs ballot initiative in November.
The alliance noted with alarm that the ballot question does not require mandatory depression screening.
More than 90 percent of terminally ill patients who attempt suicide suffer from depression, it observed, and a 2006 study found that patients who wish to die change their minds in over 98 percent of cases once they receive treatment for depression.
If the ballot initiative is successful, it could result in the tragic deaths of countless individuals with easily-treatable depression, the alliance warned.
It also cautioned that the proposed ballot question would allow any patient with a six-month diagnosis to request suicide, even though such a prognosis is often incorrect and patients may be able to live much longer.
These concerns were echoed by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which testified last month against the measure, arguing that it contradicts âa fundamental guarantee of inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life.â
âTerminally ill, dying patients do not need to make the choice that ends all choices,â the conference said. Rather than supporting the message that such patients are âbetter off dead,â doctors should be offering âlife-affirming care for the life that is left to them.â
âModern medicine offers many alternatives to allow any patient, no matter their level of pain or suffering, to be comforted in the last moments of their lives,â it observed.
In addition, the law would âexempt physicians from the duty to do no harm,â it warned.
The conference called on the Massachusetts legislature and the people of the state to resist attempts to change the current law, which âtreats all persons as possessing lives worthy of protection against harmful intervention, regardless of their condition or proximity to death.â
It stressed that âall suicide is a tragedy and we are called to comfort the sick, not to help them end their lives.â