February 28, 2024

Massachusetts assisted suicide struggling

Ted Kennedy’s widow and the Boston Globe give it the thumbs down.

Is Tuesday’s referendum on assisted suicide in Massachusetts doomed? The widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, who died of cancer in 2009, has announced that she is strongly opposed. Dismissing the slogan of “dying with dignity”, Victoria Reggie Kennedy wrote in a local newspaper: “for every complex problem, there’s a simple easy answer. And it’s wrong.”

“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 [the referendum], 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.”

The Boston Globe, which normally supports progressive social policies, also opposes the introduction of assisted suicide. In theory, says its editorial, assisted suicide and euthanasia are possible end-of-life choices. But the law to be enacted by the referendum leaves too many questions. “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.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
assisted suicide