Nov 7, 2012

Efforts of local Catholics, Knights of Columbus help defeat assisted-suicide measure



Story and photo by Peggy Weber

SPRINGFIELD – The “Death with Dignity Act” was voted down by Massachusetts voters Nov. 6 in a very close race.

With 96 percent of the vote in, the measure fell short by 57,000 votes.

As of late Wednesday morning the vote was 1,454,053 against Question 2 and 1,396,923 for the bill. Several precincts in Chicopee, Arlington and Fitchburg had still not posted results.

The supporters of physician-assisted suicide conceded defeat regarding the ballot initiative question, which would have permitted terminally ill patients to take a lethal dose of medication and commit suicide.

Mark Dupont, spokesperson for the Springfield Diocese, spearheaded the efforts to defeat the measure in the four counties of western Massachusetts.

“The defeat of this extremely controversial ballot initiative is a testament to months of hard work and determination by so many individuals,” Dupont said. “This was a true grassroots effort which involved our parishes and other partners in the community and was successful in exposing the dangers of this carelessly-crafted ballot question.

“Today is a true victory for all who believe in the dignity of life,” said Dupont.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell said, in a written statement, " It was extremely gratifying that people realized the dangers inherent in ballot question #2 and despite great odds voted to protect the lives of those who face terminal illness from a measure that was very flawed."

The Knights of Columbus (K of C) helped in the effort to defeat Question 2. In South Hadley, Council 1721 knights held “Vote No on Question 2” signs at South Hadley High School during all of the voting hours. Gerard Leclair, Paul Tardif and Gerry Lacasse, K of C district deputy, waved to a steady stream of cars that entered the high school driveway.

“I’m here just trying to get people to vote ‘no,’” said Leclair.

Tardif said, “I knew this was going to be a close vote and there was going to be a big turnout so I wanted to help.”

“I don’t think that people really understood what would happen with this bill,” he added.

Lacasse said that passing this bill would be “cracking the door open for malfeasance.”

Voters in some key cities in western Massachusetts helped the effort to defeat Question 2.

Holyoke results were 5,660 for and 8,957 against physician-assisted suicide. Ludlow voters had 3,600 “yes” votes and 5,639 against. And Springfield defeated Question 2 by an almost two to one margin with 16,635 “yes” votes and 31,554 “no” votes. And the Knights of Columbus in South Hadley helped their town, with 4,181 “yes” votes and 4,352 “no” votes.

Rosanne Bacon Meade, chairperson of the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, issued a statement saying: “While some votes remain uncounted on this question, we believe the question’s defeat is now assured. We believe Question 2 was defeated because the voters came to see this as a flawed approach to end-of-life care, lacking in the most basic safeguards.

A broad coalition of medical professionals, religious leaders, elected officials and voters from across the political spectrum made clear that these flaws were too troubling for a question of such consequence,” Meade said. “We hope these results mark the beginning of a deliberate and thorough conversation about ways to improve end-of-life-care in Massachusetts, which, as the nation’s health care capital, is well-positioned to take the lead on this issue.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston issued the following statement: “Tuesday’s vote demonstrates that the people of the Commonwealth recognize that the common good was best served in defeating Question 2. The Campaign Against Physician-Assisted Suicide brought together a diverse coalition from medical, disability rights and interfaith communities, all dedicated to ensuring that our residents were well informed about this issue. Our society must continue to work with hospice organizations and other palliative care providers to improve the care provided to the terminally ill. Patients are best served when the medical professionals, families and loved ones provide support and care with dignity and respect.”

Cardinal O’Malley expressed his thanks to Rosanne Meade and Radky Baerlein Strategic Communications and Martilla Strategies. He also thanked the four Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts and the Knights of Columbus. And he expressed appreciation to Father Bryan Hehir, Janet Benstad, Scot Landy and Kathleen Driscoll.

“It is my hope and prayer that the defeat of Question 2 will help all people to understand that for our brothers and sisters confronted with terminal illness, we can do better than offering them the means to end their lives,” the cardinal said.