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Victoria Kennedy says ballot question on life-ending drugs is ‘cruel’

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, came out against a Massachusetts ballot question that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication for terminally ill patients.

In an opinion piece in the Cape Cod Times on Saturday, Kennedy said ballot Question 2 would turn her husband’s vision of health care “on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide — not patient care — as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life.”

The ballot question would allow terminally ill patients with six months or less to live to request life-ending medication from a doctor licensed in Massachusetts. Participation would be optional for providers, and the patient would have to administer the medication themselves.


Kennedy writes that the question forces what should be a personal and private decision into the public square, excludes family members from the decision-making process, and leaves suffering patients to die a “harsh and extreme” death.

She takes issue, also, with the fact that patients with a life expectancy of six months or less are eligible. Her husband, she writes, was given two to four months to live, and survived for another 15. In that time, she writes, he cast a key Senate vote, gave a speech at the Democratic Convention, attended the president’s inauguration, and spent time “kissing his wife, loving his family, and preparing for the end of life.”

Kennedy argues that everyone wishes for a “good and happy death.” But passage of Question 2, she said, would not grant death with dignity, but would rob people of precious time with friends and family. “That seems cruel to me,” she writes. “And lonely. And sad.”

Evan Allen can be reached at