In almost every instance palliative care can suppress pain. People already have the right to refuse burdensome, life-extending treatments. They also have the option of leaving advance directives to determine their care when they are no longer able to express their wishes. The death that results from withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment has always been separated by a bright line from active measures to cause death. Assisted suicide proponents seek to blur this line.
I am happy that the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation recently testified against the physician-assisted suicide initiative on Beacon Hill and that so many doctors and nurses are speaking out against Question 2 and encouraging a "No" vote.
Last month, a letter appeared in the Ottawa Citizen and in some Florida newspapers. The letter was written by Jeannette Hall from King City, Oregon. In her very poignant testimony she stated that she lives in Oregon and voted for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in the late 1990s. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and told she had six months to live. She first appealed to her doctor to help to end her life. He refused and urged her to try new treatments. Twelve years later she is happy to be alive. She said "If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead. Thank him and all my doctors for helping me choose 'life with dignity.'" She ends with the plea: "Assisted suicide should not be legal. Don't make Oregon's mistake."
All of us should be committed to suicide prevention, to helping those who might consider committing suicide because of fear and depression. As a community we must send a message that suicide is always a tragedy, a bad choice, and an act of abandonment and despair. It never enhances, and always undermines, human dignity. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide falsely presents suicide as a good solution to one's problems. I ask you to join me and work to stop assisted suicide here in the commonwealth by voting no on Question 2 and encouraging others to join us.
The Archdiocese of Boston has developed an educational website on the Church's teachings on end of life issues, www.SuicideIsAlwaysATragedy.org
. The archdiocese is also part of a large coalition of groups from other faiths, from the medical community, and from disabilities rights groups that are advocating a no vote on Question 2. The coalition's website is www.StopAssistedSuicide.org