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Massachusetts Voters Deny Rights to Terminally-Ill People
Posted by Peg Sandeen, PhD, MSW on November 7, 2012
Massachusetts Question 2 election results: 49% (yes) to 51% (no)
Despite strong early support for Death with Dignity in Massachusetts the final vote tally didn't give more Americans another end-of-life option. In the end, the opponents' enormous smear campaign based on fear and misinformation won the day. But the foundation for support has been built, and we'll keep working to make sure voters in Massachusetts and other states get the facts they need for an open and honest debate about Death with Dignity.
Together, we've changed the entire conversation around end-of-life care policy reform. A little over a year ago, many people in Massachusetts and throughout New England started hearing about Death with Dignity laws for the first time, and since that time, the need for these carefully crafted laws has been a hot topic on television programs, news publications, blogs, editorial columns, and countless letters to editors.
Polls showed people were ready for a Death with Dignity law in Massachusetts, and many shared their stories with the public at an unprecedented level. One such person is Jim Carberry. He, like so many of you who've come to support Death with Dignity, watched a loved one die a long, painful, and protracted death. His wife, Margie didn't have the option to die on her own terms in the final stages of her terminal illness—something she so desperately wanted after her tumor aggressively returned in 2007.
She wanted to survive long enough to see their daughters graduate from high school and endured many invasive medical procedures to keep her body functional through those milestones. She was out of curative treatment options. Even after chemotherapy was no longer helping, she worked with her medical team to keep her body going.
Margie lived to see both of their daughters graduate, and through both graduations she was radiant, a proud mother who celebrated her daughters' achievements. A week after graduation, she spoke with her family, clergy, and medical team and decided to remove her feeding tube and meet death on her terms.
Though she was ready, she suffered another five weeks before her body gave out. Margie wanted the option to shorten her suffering, but that option doesn't yet exist in her state.
Margie wasn't alone in her support for a Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act. Polls before the election showed a strong majority of people in Massachusetts also wanted this choice. As a result, opponents from all over the country who object based on their own beliefs—even anti-gay hate groups—poured millions of dollars into the state to spread lies and falsehoods in a three-week all out media blitz. Unfortunately, this time, they were successful in misleading voters.
Support is still strong and will continue to grow as more people learn the truth about Death with Dignity. Not since Washingtonians approved their state's Death with Dignity law in 2008 has another state come so close to passing the next Death with Dignity Act. The recent efforts in Massachusetts have directly changed the national conversation around death, dying, and assisted death, and that is a huge step forward for our entire movement.
Everyone deserves to decide how to live the rest of their lives when death is near. We'll continue to move forward as people throughout the US join their voices together to demand more end-of-life options. The Death with Dignity National Center will stand with them, just as we did this year in Massachusetts, in Washington in 2008, and 18 years ago in Oregon.
Defend dignity. Take action.
You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.