If adopted this November, a ballot initiative in Massachusetts will legalize physician-assisted suicide for patients whose conditions are predicted to produce death within six months. Initiative Petition 11-12 claims to ensure that the patient's decision to commit suicide is voluntary. That claim, however, is misleading.
The initiative petition requires that two persons witness the patient's written request for a lethal prescription. One witness, however, can have a financial interest in the patient's death. That person can be the only witness present when the lethal drug is taken. Thus, an interested heir could pressure the patient, and no one would know because no objective witness is required when the drug is taken. Also, the petition would require the death certificate fraudulently to list the patient's underlying condition, rather than the lethal drug, as the cause of death.
Initiative Petition 11-12 uses terms like life-ending "medication" and death in a "humane and dignified manner." But there is nothing medicinal about poison and nothing dignified about the prospects for the abuse the initiative petition would allow. It is a bad law that the voters of Massachusetts should reject decisively.
STEPHEN L. MIKOCHIK
Temple Law School