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Opponents line up against Question 2

Posted By November 1, 2012 | 1:08 pm | Lead Story #1
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Text of Bishop McManus’ letter below

 

Bishop McManus and educators from several Catholic colleges in Massachusetts have signed letters expressing objections to Ballot Question 2, which would allow physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
Ballot Question 2, the so-called “Death With Dignity Act,” is on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
In his letter to the people of the Worcester Diocese, the bishop said the ballot question is “poorly written, deliberately confusing and morally flawed.”
He said that every person, “no matter how gravely ill, still enjoys a God-given human dignity that must be preserved and protected until his or her natural death. Ballot Question 2 does not promote human dignity but radically undermines it.
“As Catholics, we should be in the forefront in working for a just and humane society where the right to life in inviolable. A vote for physician-assisted suicide is a moral failure to promote the compassionate care we owe to the terminally ill. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, we are called to comfort the sick and not help them end their lives,” the bishop wrote.
In their letter the educators said they have strong objections to this measure, which would cast aside moral and ethical principles long held in our society and in the medical profession about the sanctity of life and of physicians not doing harm.
”Question 2 suffers from a number of serious defects,” the letter said.
“The proposed law states that to be eligible the person must be diagnosed with having six months or fewer to live.  But the medical profession agrees that such diagnoses are often wrong and that many people live longer than predicted.  Thus, an essential requirement of this proposition cannot be fulfilled.
“A person with a potentially terminal illness can be seriously depressed and feel a sense of hopelessness. This ballot question fails to require a psychiatric examination to determine if the person is in a sound state of mind and can freely decide to commit suicide; nor does it require a referral about palliative care options.
“The proposition does not mandate that immediate family members be informed that the lethal prescription has been requested, leaving them unaware and forced to deal with the sadness, anger, sense of betrayal, and other tragic consequences that inevitably follow suicide.
“In the judgment of the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), this measure lacks sufficient safeguards against abuse since it does not include provisions for enforcement, oversight, and verification of data.  The MMS has further stated that physician-assisted suicide is not necessary to improve the quality of life because current law gives patients the right to receive adequate pain relief as well as to refuse treatment if they wish.
“Life is so central and precious to us as human beings, and any legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs for the purpose of suicide calls for special scrutiny and careful consideration. In our analysis, Ballot Question 2 is profoundly flawed and should be rejected,” the letter concluded.
It was signed by  Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.,  President, College of the Holy Cross; Jack P. Calareso, Ph.D., President, Anna Maria College;  Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., President, Boston College; Sister Janet Eisner, SND, President, Emmanuel College; Antoinette M. Hays, President, Regis College; Rev. Mark T. Cregan, C.S.C., President, Stonehill College; Diane Arathuzik, Chair, Dept. of Nursing, Emmanuel College, and Susan Gennaro, Dean, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College.
Assumption College president Francesco C. Cesareo, PhD. sent a letter Oct. 12 to the college alumni in which he wrote that passage of Question 2 would have grave implications.
“Rather than extending care and compassion to those facing terminal illnesses, this law would implicitly encourage patients to end their lives prematurely,” he wrote.  “The medical community has made great strides  to provide patients with far less pain and far more comfort when they reach the final stages of life.  Appropriately, supporting life and providing comfort should be our priority as Christians – not encouraging suicide.”
The college sponsored a series of educational programs throughout October which he said were aimed at helping students  understand “the gravity of this issue as well as the broader issues at play in this year’s election.”

The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide said on Oc. 30 that
the Western Massachusetts Pharmacists Association (WMPA) had announced their opposition to Question 2. “As pharmacists, our goal is to help people – Question 2 would undermine that,” said Robert Dobek, Treasurer of WMPA. More than 250 pharmacists are part of the WMPA.

 

Bishop McManus’ Letter

November 4, 2012
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Next Tuesday is Election Day when the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be asked to vote on a referendum item, Ballot Question 2, the so-called “Death With Dignity Act”.  This proposed piece of legislation is poorly written, deliberately confusing and morally flawed.
Among the most critical moral flaws in this legislation is that Question 2 does not require a patient to consult with a psychiatrist before receiving a doctor’s prescription to commit suicide.  Mental health care experts tell us that many terminally ill patients, maybe as many as 50%, suffer from depression.  Yet the proposed law does not require a psychological evaluation.
Although the Ballot Question 2 promotes “physician assisted suicide”, the physician’s role in the patient’s suicide ends when the physician writes the lethal prescription of 100 pills of the deadly drug, Seconal, which are ingested alone, without any attending doctor.  Moreover, no member of the patient’s family or loved one needs to be present since the law does not require the patient to notify anyone of his or her decision to commit suicide.  Dying alone and unattended, especially if there should be unforeseen side effects from the lethal drug, can hardly be described as “dying with dignity”.
Before a patient can receive a prescription to commit suicide, he or she must be diagnosed by two physicians that he or she is terminally ill and has six months or less to live.  However, doctors readily acknowledge that terminal diagnoses can often be inaccurate with patients often living months or years longer.  Finally, what is very troubling is that the death certificate must list the cause of death as the underlying disease and not assisted suicide.  This is simply not true.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, every person, no matter how gravely ill, still enjoys a God-given human dignity that must be preserved and protected until his or her natural death.  Ballot Question 2 does not promote human dignity but radically undermines it.  As Catholics, we should be in the forefront in working for a just and humane society where the right to life is inviolable.  A vote for physician assisted suicide is a moral failure to promote the compassionate care we owe to the terminally ill.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, we are called to comfort the sick and not help them end their lives.
During this Year of Faith, all members of the Church are being called to bear public witness to their faith, particularly their faith in the Gospel of Life.  A vote to defeat Ballot Question 2 is a very significant way of giving such a life-affirming witness.  May God grant us the wisdom and courage to build a culture of life and love where the precious gift of life is protected from conception to natural death.
With every prayerful best wish, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester