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opinion | tom keane

Jack Kevorkian comes to town

Should Mass. voters approve physician-assisted suicide?

The late Jack Kevorkian, a saint to some and a demon to others, was the controversial proponent of physician-assisted suicide for the dying and ill. This November, Kevorkian comes to the Commonwealth, or the spirit of the man at least, in the form of Question 2. The ballot measure, neutrally titled “Prescribing Medication to End Life,” would allow doctors to help the terminally ill kill themselves. Kevorkian’s arguments took root in Oregon and Washington but so far have not found favor in the rest of the country. Massachusetts is thus somewhat of a test case: Is legalized suicide a trend?

Many of the objections to the proposed law are practical. “Terminally ill,” for example, is defined as death within six months. Why not a year, or for that matter 50 years (in which case, I guess, a whole lot of us would be eligible)? Then too, a prognosis of six months to live is an educated guess. Doctors are like weather forecasters: Their ability to foresee the future is far from perfect.

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