EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 10, 2012

Doctors, religious leaders debate physician-assisted suicide ballot question


He noted that people who use the law “have to be terminal” and their request for life-ending medication “has to be corroborated by two physicians.” He added, “there are 13 safeguards built into the law, the same as in Oregon and Washington.”

Modeled after laws in those two Northwest states, Ballot Question 2 requires a person with a terminal disease to make a request to a doctor that their life be ended. The law would require the patient be deemed mentally competent and be diagnosed by “attending and consulting physicians” as having an “incurable, irreversible disease” that will cause death within six months.

The patient would have to “orally communicate to a physician on two occasions, 15 days apart” the request for the medication, while also being granted an opportunity to rescind the request. There are other measures as well in the law, set up to insure that the patient knows the alternatives to an assisted suicide; and making it illegal to coerce a patient or forge a request.

Despite these and other guidelines, there is still significant opposition to the proposal. The Catholic Church has come out against it, as have leaders in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Robert Goldstein, of Temple Emanuel in Andover, said he can see both sides of the argument, but that “most of my rabbinic colleagues are opposed to Question 2.”

Reform Jewish rabbis and cantors in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued a statement, signed by rabbis from all over the state, opposing the measure because “it opens the possibility of misuse which may endanger certain patients; that prognoses of terminal illnesses are often mistaken; that the physician-patient relationship may become confused through permitting assisted suicide.”

Goldstein said he did not sign the statement..

“The fact that I’m not opposed to it is controversial, even though I haven’t supported it, either,” he said. “I’m kind of a libertarian on these issues.”

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