Candidates Forum Addresses Ballot Questions on Assisted Suicide, Marijuana

Arguments on both sides of ballot questions 2 and 3 were heard Thursday night at a League of Women Voters Candidates Forum in Norwood.

On Thursday night, the League of Women Voters of Norwood, Westwood and Walpole held a Candidates Forum at the Norwood Town Hall for local voters to hear about their candidates and some of the issues on the ballot this November.

The League invited speakers on each side (pro and con) of the vote for ballot questions 2 and 3 - the legalization of assisted suicide in Massachusetts and the legalization of medical Marijuana in Massachusetts.

The Questions

Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life. This law "would allow a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at a terminally ill patient’s request, to end that patient’s life." The act would require that patients are mentally capable of making this decision and orally communicate it to a doctor on two occasions 15 days apart. Participation by a doctor or health care facility would be voluntary.

Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana. This law "would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients." It would also allow patients to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana and would establish at least one in each county but no more than 35 "treatment centers" throughout the state in 2013.

The Speakers

On Question 2, the "yes" vote was represented by Melissa Barbosa, from Yes 2 Dignity 2012, also a member of the National Association of Social Workers. The "no" vote was represented by Brian Camenker, from the Life With Dignity No on 2 committee.

On Question 3, the speakers were unable to attend, so the "yes" and "no" arguments were read from the Secretary of State's Voter Information booklet.

The Arguments

Speaking first for the evening, Barbosa said that as a social worker one of the things that's important is allowing people the right to self determination.

"To me it seems pretty simple," she said.

The option would only be available to patients suffering from terminal illness with six months or less to live, she said. Barbosa also noted that there are 16 safeguards on the legislation, including verification of the patient's terminal status by two physicians, as well as a verification of their mental competency.

"I don't know about any of you, but I would much rather go out planning things out, surrounded by my loved ones...." she said.

"We're just giving them the choice to be able to make that decision for themselves," said Barbosa.

Camenker began his presentation by noting that his personal reason for being involved with this cause is that his mother had suffered from illness and died comfortably at home.

"When I think of this bill, I am very frightened," he said.

He noted that this bill, or similar, was introduced twice before in the Massachusetts legislature and never made it out of committee.

"The bill lacks adequate safeguards," Camenker said.

He also pointed out that some victims - those who can not read or write to verify their choice, or those who have lost the ability to swallow (the method legalized in this legislation being a pill rather than an injection) - may be excluded, and that there is no "follow-through" in place for the families.

But the biggest problem, Camenker said, is that the legislation breaks the physicians' oath to do no harm.

"The trust between the doctor and the patient is broken," he said. "It endorses the idea that some lives are not worth living."

It was also noted by both sides that life insurance would not be affected for those choosing this option. The death certificate in these cases would list the terminal illness as the cause of death, rather than suicide.

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The candidates in attendance were William P. O'Donnell, incumbent, running unopposed for Norfolk County Register of Deeds; Paul McMurtry, incumbent, running unopposed for State Representative of the 11th Norfolk District; Mike Rush, incumbent, running unopposed for State Senator for the Sufolk and Norfolk Districts; Robert Jubinville, running for Governor's Council for District 2; Kevin Connelly, running for the Blue Hills Regional Technical School Committee; John Rogers (incumbent) and Jim Stanton, running for State Representative for the 12th Norfolk District; Stephen Lynch (incumbent) and Joseph Selvaggi, running for U.S. Congress representing the 9th Massachusetts District; and James Timilty (incumbent) and Jeffrey Bailey, running for State Senator for the Bristol and Norfolk District.

Check back with Norwood Patch later for more on the forum and your candidates statements.


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