Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston applauded the defeat of a Massachusetts ballot measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide, calling for more compassionate care of those who are seriously ill.

"It is my hope and prayer that the defeat of Question 2 will help all people to understand that for our brothers and sisters confronted with terminal illness we can do better than offering them the means to end their lives," said the cardinal in a statement responding to the vote.

He said that the results show that "the people of the Commonwealth recognize that the common good was best served in defeating Question 2."  
The so-called "Death with Dignity" initiative on the Nov. 6 Massachusetts ballot would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who were given six months or fewer to live.

Proponents of the measure conceded defeat early on Nov. 7. With 96 percent of precincts counted, the initiative was rejected by a 51-49 percent margin.

The ballot measure had been vocally opposed by Cardinal O'Malley, who led a Twitter campaign against it. He warned that the proposal failed to value and respect the lives of those who are severely ill.

The initiative was also opposed by disability rights groups, the Massachusetts Medical Association and the Boston Herald, as well as major newspapers in numerous other cities.

Critics of the measure argued that it would devalue human life and could create a "slippery slope."

Rather than extending a compassionate and helping hand to the suffering, legalizing physician-assisted suicide could pressure those who are terminally ill to end their lives, feeling that they are a burden on society, they said.

Opponents also voiced concerns that the measure did not require family notification or the presence of a doctor. Nor did it require a psychiatric evaluation for treatable problems such as depression.

Furthermore, critics said, the initiative would weaken palliative care efforts. They also noted that terminal diagnoses are often wrong and warned that the law could be abused by family members seeking to inherit property or money.

Cardinal O'Malley thanked all of those who worked to help share information about the problems behind the ballot measure.

"The Campaign Against Physician Assisted Suicide brought together a diverse coalition from medical, disability rights and interfaith communities, all dedicated to ensuring that our residents were well informed about this issue," he explained.

The cardinal stressed that society must cooperate with hospice organizations and palliative care providers to improve the compassionate care offered to those who are terminally ill.

"Patients are best served when the medical professionals, families and loved ones provide support and care with dignity and respect," he said.