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Pignatelli Urges No Vote on Physician-Assisted Suicide
Pignatelli Campaign,
09:59AM / Saturday, November 03, 2012

LENOX, Mass. — State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli announced Friday that he is opposing Massachusetts ballot Question 2, which if passed would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the commonwealth beginning Jan. 1, 2013. 

The Lenox Democrat is joining a list of elected officials, medical community organizations, religious leaders, clergy and other groups who say Question 2 is deeply flawed and lacks critical safeguards for protecting patients.

"Question 2 would allow patients to receive a fatal prescription of 100 secanol pills at their local pharmacy without any family notification, and without the benefit of receiving a qualified psychiatric evaluation or consultation from a palliative care expert. This poses grave risks for the commonwealth and how we approach end-of-life care," said Pignatelli. "On Nov. 6, I urge the people of the 4th Berkshire district to vote NO on Question 2."

Among Pignatelli's concerns with Question 2:

• The lethal prescription would be dispensed at a local pharmacy and public health official would have no system for tracking the lethal dose.

• A physician would not be required to be present when a patient takes the pill, leaving him or her vulnerable to complications and injury not resulting in death.

• There is no required psychiatric evaluation despite multiple studies indicating 30 to 50 percent of patients with a terminal diagnosis develop — treatable — depression

• Patients with a prognosis of six months or fewer to live could choose to end their lives, even though most doctors admit they cannot accurately predict life expectancy.

• Patients could choose to end their lives without ever talking to a spouse or family member. 

• Patients could obtain a lethal prescription without talking to hospice and palliative care professionals, who are trained to help people with ongoing diseases (some terminal, some not) to manage their symptoms and minimize pain. 

Pignatelli cited the recent statement by the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians which criticized using the ballot question for such a nuanced and complex area of medicine as a "disservice to the citizens of the commonwealth."

Previously, the Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians and the Massachusetts Osteopathic Society have each announced their opposition to Question 2.
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