TAG | Massachusetts
Over at the Corner, Wesley Smith posted a comment on Boston’s Question 2 (assisted suicide). You can find it here.
Here was my response:
Wesley, you write:
“Pro-assisted-suicide activists often claim falsely that opponents want to force (Catholic) religion on rational people.”
Clearly there are people of many different faiths and of none who are opposed to assisted suicide. They are so for a wide variety of reasons, sometimes rooted in religion, and sometimes not. As the Boston Globe puts it in the extract from the editorial you cite, “reasonable people” can disagree over this issue.
Equally (as I am sure you would accept) the Roman Catholic Church is a part of the coalition opposing Question 2 and that (unsurprisingly) it is so for primarily religious reasons. That’s not in the slightest bit shocking, but nor is it something to be denied.
Then we come to these words in the Boston Globe editorial cited by you:
“[A] yes vote would not serve the larger interests of the state.”
As you note, it is a liberal newspaper.
The newspaper’s conclusion is that various constituencies ( ”the medical community, insurers, religious groups, and state policy makers”) should keep talking, and talking mainly about what should be done for people rather than by people. And as they keep talking, somewhere someone (trapped suddenly, say, in locked-in syndrome) will find himself deprived of his individual autonomy in the most profound manner imaginable. He may, quite rationally, decide to make the best of it, or at least to cope, and that, of course, is his inalienable right. But what of the patient who decides, no less rationally, that he would rather not face the years of imprisonment (as he sees it) in his own body that may lie ahead? You can explain to him about the dangers of legalized assisted suicide, and of the perils of the slippery slope, but something tells me that he will conclude that he has slid down a slippery slope all of his own. And has been left to rot there.
Wesley replied here.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, a Roman Catholic priest, Tadeusz Pacholczyk, tries to throw in (I think) a little irony in support of his church’s campaign against assisted suicide:
In the November elections, voters in Massachusetts will decide on “Question 2,” a ballot initiative to allow physicians to prescribe (but not administer) a lethal dose of a toxic drug to assist their patients in committing suicide. Advocates of physician-assisted suicide assure us that this can be a good choice for someone who is dying, or who wants to die.
If physician-assisted suicide really represents a good choice, we need to ask: Why should only physicians be able to participate? Why should only physicians be allowed to undermine public trust in their profession through these kinds of death-dealing activities?
Why not include police? If a sick person expresses a wish to die, the police could be notified, and an officer would arrive bearing a suitable firearm. He would load it with ammunition, cock the gun and place it on the bedside stand of the sick patient. After giving instruction on the best way to angle the barrel, the officer would depart, and the patient could then pick up the device and take it from there—police-assisted suicide.
Oh good grief. Please try harder, Father. You surely can do better than that. Mercifully, Pacholczyk then changes tack. He offers up a couple of true life stories that allegedly make the case against assisted suicide:
I remember reading a letter to the editor in the local paper of a small town many years ago. A woman wrote in about the death of her grandparents—well-educated, intelligent and seemingly in control of their faculties—who had tragically committed suicide together by drinking a deadly substance. They were elderly and struggling with various ailments.
Her firsthand perspective was unflinching: It took her years to forgive her grandparents. She was angry at what they had done to her and her family. She felt betrayed and nauseated. She could hardly believe it had really happened.
The woman was still upset that they hadn’t reached out to the rest of the family for assistance. She dismissed the idea that suicide could ever be a good thing as a “total crock and a lie…”
Because, you see, it was all about her. What her grandparents wanted for their own lives counted, apparently, for nothing. She cannot have loved them very much. Not really. Not truly.
And then we have this:
A friend of mine in Canada has struggled with multiple sclerosis for many years. He often speaks out against assisted suicide.
Recently, he sent me a picture of himself taken with his smiling grandchildren, one sitting on each arm of his wheelchair. Below the picture he wrote, “If I had opted for assisted suicide back in the mid-1980s when I first developed MS, and it seemed life as I knew it was over, look what I would have missed. I had no idea that one day I would be head over heels in love with grandchildren! Never give up on life.
In the early stages of his disease (and perhaps even now) this man could have opted for suicide by his own hand. He has chosen not to, and he continues to lead an apparently rich and fulfilled life. Good for him. He made the right choice, but what is right for him is not right for everyone, and is no argument at all for depriving (in particular) the helpless of their chance for release.
By the weakness of this almost insultingly feeble article, Father Pacholczyk reveals yet again how little intellectual force there is to the argument against assisted suicide once those who make it stray from the religious ideology on which their case is, in reality, based, a religious ideology that should not be enforced on those who disagree with it.
The answer to Massachusetts’s Question Two should be yes.
Cardinal O’Malley (The National Catholic Register reports):
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is leading a statewide fight to defeat the Death With Dignity Act, a November 2012 ballot measure that would legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
He has outlined the Church’s underlying moral concerns regarding the threat to human dignity and patients’ rights posed by assisted suicide in a video homily broadcast at Boston-area Catholic churches. He’s also writing a series of columns critiquing the measure, and he has worked with the Massachusetts Catholic Conference to form the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide, a coalition that includes religious, medical and disability groups across the state.
A Kennedy (Joseph Kennedy III) and The Republican (Sien Bielat) contesting Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District:
They found common ground on a couple of issues.
Both opposed the so-called “right to die” ballot question that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients…