SALEM — The Nov. 6 election asks voters to make important decisions about who will be the next president of the United States, the next U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the next congressman from this district.
No decision on the ballot may be more important or profound, however, than Question 2: the Massachusetts Death With Dignity Act.
The choice, in a real sense, is between life and death. Should an individual who is terminally ill have the right to end his or her life?
Massachusetts could become the third state to adopt such a law. There are similar measures on the books in Oregon (1994) and Washington state (2008), both of which passed by voter initiative.
On the North Shore, the subject has been discussed and debated over the past few weeks. A Marblehead rabbi made it the subject of his sermon on Yom Kippur; a Catholic church in Salem held a forum on the issue; and a debate was staged at the Council on Aging building in Salem.
Among the chief opponents of Question 2 are the Catholic Church and the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley preached against it just days ago at a church in Lynn, and has listed “10 Reasons to Oppose Question 2” on his blog.
The key proponents are the Massachusetts Death With Dignity Coalition, the petitioners for the ballot question.
They have the backing of the American Public Health Association and The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
Before this question even made it to the ballot, it was the subject of a legal fight over what to call it. Is it “death with dignity” or “physician-assisted suicide?”
“Physician-assisted suicide conjures up Kevorkian kind of conduct,” said Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the Death With Dignity Coalition. His reference, of course, is to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was sentenced to prison in 1999 after assisting in the death of a man suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Kevorkian claimed to have assisted in more than 100 deaths.