Respect Life - Physician Assisted Suicide

Prescribing Medication to End Life
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 Ballot Question

The November 6 Ballot Question

Along with the presidential election here, in Massachusetts, there will be a ballot question, the 2nd of 3, entitled “Prescribing Medication to End Life”.  

It has also been referred to, misleadingly, as “Death with Dignity” or “Aid in Dying”.  It is not.  What this ballot question seeks is the approval of Massachusetts voters for Physician Assisted Suicide.

Importantly, the type of ballot question supporters gained approval for, an initiative petition for a law, requires only a simple majority - one vote more than 50%,  to make Physician Assisted Suicide law in this state 30 days later.  Nothing will go to the legislature.  Whatever, we decide becomes law.  Click here to learn about initiative petitions.

Some would have us believe this is merely a question of personal choice.  After all, freedom is near and dear to the American way of life. They claim “Its your life, do with it what you want.” Rather, physician assisted suicide is a very serious moral issue, which, has proven to have implications beyond just one’s own personal choice. Therefore, it is important you understand the issue and all its ramifications, thoroughly, before you vote.


There are several related terms you need be familiar with:

Physician Assisted Suicide:

When it is a doctor who helps another person to end their life.  There is an intention by the individual in requesting a drug to end their life and the physician in prescribing it to assist in ending their life. This is what is being sought here in Massachusetts.


Is the intentional ending of a dependent human being’s life by deliberate act or deliberate omission of some treatment  for his or her alleged benefit. There are different types of euthanasia.

  1. Voluntary – When someone asks to have their life ended. The only difference between physician assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia is with the former the individual takes the medicine prescribed themselves.  In the latter, someone else administers it.
  2. Involuntary – An individual expresses their wish not to have their life ended. But, it is ended anyway.
  3. Nonvoluntary – No request is made by the individual to have their life ended nor is consent given. But, their life is ended anyway.

Routine End of Life Care:

It is important to distinguish between deliberate acts to end a terminally ill patient’s life and routine medical measures provided, specifically, to ease a patient’ suffering. If death is not  the intention, it is not an act of euthanasia. Thus, if the physician were to administer a drug to ease a patient’s pain or help them breathe easier, though it might hasten the patient’s death,  the intent is not to end life but relieve suffering and preserve human dignity. Consequently, this would not be euthanasia.

At other times, the decision of an individual to forego burdensome or overzealous treatments as described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be legitimate.  Again, the intent is not to will one’s death.  Rather, it is to accept death cannot be prevented.  The same would apply were the patient  incapable at that point of making a decision and instead it fell to those legally entitled to act.  In all cases ordinary care should be maintained and the human dignity of the person respected.

Supporters of the Massachusetts Ballot Measure

The principal supporter of the Massachusetts ballot measure is a group entitled Compassion and Choices. Most of you likely know them by their previous name, The Hemlock Society.  Their founder and leader is Derek Humphries. The second group is the Death with Dignity Center, a 501(c) 3 political action committee, which was very active in promoting the Oregon law, and remains active in defending it against all legal challenges. They are actively working in New England, particularly, Vermont and Massachusetts to promote physician assisted suicide.

To learn information about Physician Assisted Suicide click here for more information...

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