Saturday, November 3, 2012

A mother's vote against assisted suicide

I was disappointed in your editorial, “Vote yes on Question 2; allow death with dignity” (Nov. 2).

Question 2 makes it legal to obtain a lethal prescription if a person has a terminal illness that carries a prognosis of six or fewer months to live.   As a mother whose son outlived his six-month prognosis by six years, I oppose Question 2 for that reason alone.  The years we had with my son are a precious gift; I would not want to see another family deprived of days, months, or years with a loved one because of this law.  

Question 2 also has other deep and serious flaws.  To begin, a patient’s mental health does not have to be evaluated before making such a significant life-ending decision.  Today, if a patient confides in their doctor that they are having suicidal thoughts or intend to do harm to themselves, it is the doctor’s professional obligation to do everything they can to prevent such actions.  Taking a lethal dose of 100 Seconal pills should not be an exception to this rule.

Once the patient picks up this lethal prescription from his or her local pharmacy, there is absolutely no tracking method to ensure that the medication does not end up in the wrong hands.  In your editorial, you correctly state that such a thing is not required for any other sorts of medications. However, none of these medications have an expressed intent to kill anyone. The importance of a tracking method for this medication is distinctive and necessary. Moreover, as a resident of the South Shore, I am shocked at the Ledger’s loose attitude toward this serious issue under the banner of prescription monitoring, given the paper’s strong coverage of the region’s oxycontin epidemic in the past.

Your newspaper cited Oregon – where assisted suicide is legal – as a model case, since only about 600 people had actually taken their lives.  Since when did 596 lives become insignificant? How many of them could have outlived their prognosis, or had more time to spend with friends, their families and children? How many of them could have been suffering from a treatable form of depression or misdiagnosed in the first place? My son enjoyed five years and six extra months more than he was predicted to live. Time which may have been lost if physician assisted suicide had been legal. 

We should be focusing more on options such as hospice and palliative care for patients with terminal illnesses, rather than the finality of death, because let’s face it – how many doctors can say with absolute certitude that a patient has only six months left to live? The answer: zero. 

I stand with the Massachusetts Medical Society and its 23,000 physicians across the state in opposing Question 2, and I urge all voters to do the same on Nov. 6.


Read more: DOTTY McLAUGHLIN, Randolph: A mother's vote against assisted suicide - West Bridgewater, MA - Wicked Local West Bridgewater