Ted Kennedy’s Widow Comes Out Against Euthanasia in Massachusetts

This op-ed piece from Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, is from the Cape Cod Times.

Question 2 Insults Ted Kennedy’s Memory

By ColumnCredit
October 27, 2012
There is nothing more personal or private than the end of a family member’s life, and I totally respect the view that everyone else should just get out of the way. I wish we could leave it that way. Unfortunatelyh, Question 2, the so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative, forces that issue into the public square and places the government squarely in the middle of a private family matter. I do not judge nor intend to preach to others about decisions they make at the end of life, but I believe we’re all entitled to know the facts about the law we’re being asked to enact.

Here’s the truth. The language of the proposed law is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions; it’s intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients’ being pressured to end their lives prematurely. It’s not about doctors administering drugs such as morphine to ease patients’ suffering; it’s about the oral ingestion of up to 100 capsules without requirement or expectation that a doctor be present. It’s not about giving choice and self-determination to patients with degenerative diseases like ALS or Alzheimer’s; those patients are unlikely to qualify under the statute. It’s not, in my judgment, about death with dignity at all.

My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life. Question 2 turns his vision of health care for all 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. We’re better than that. We should expand palliative care, pain management, nursing care and hospice, not trade the dignity and life of a human being for the bottom line.

Most of us wish for a good and happy death, with as little pain as possible, surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside. But under Question 2, what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone. That seems harsh and extreme to me.

Question 2 is supposed to apply to those with a life expectancy of six months or less. But even doctors admit that’s unknowable. When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he’d never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir “True Compass,” while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Because that first dire prediction of life expectancy was wrong, I have 15 months of cherished memories — memories of family dinners and songfests with our children and grandchildren; memories of laughter and, yes, tears; memories of life that neither I nor my husband would have traded for anything in the world.

When the end finally did come — natural death with dignity — my husband was home, attended by his doctor, surrounded by family and our priest.

I know we were blessed. I am fully aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did. But if Question 2 passes I can’t help but feel we’re sending the message that they’re not even entitled to a chance. A chance to have more time with their loved ones. A chance to have more dinners and sing more songs. A chance for more kisses and more love. A chance to be surrounded by family or clergy or a doctor when the end does come. That seems cruel to me. And lonely. And sad.

My husband used to paraphrase H.L. Mencken: for every complex problem, there’s a simple easy answer. And it’s wrong.

That’s how I feel in this case. And that’s why I’m going to vote no on Question 2.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy is an attorney, health care advocate and widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

  • http://biltrix.wordpress.com Biltrix

    This is awesome news! Thanks for sharing this Rebecca!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I thought so too. Pass it on to those who might be influenced by it.

  • arkenaten

    Certainly makes you think, does it not?

  • Ted Seeber

    I think I need to re-read “True Compass” and would you please delete my earlier responses to Bill. It occurs to me that if Ted Kennedy could be considered a Practical Catholic, why not an atheist?

    • Ted Seeber

      On second thought, don’t delete. Leave all responses in place. I can take my lumps.

      • Bill S

        “Unfortunately, Question 2, the so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative, forces that issue into the public square and places the government squarely in the middle of a private family matter.”

        The government is already squarely in the middle of a private family matter. Question 2 would take the government out of the decisionmaking process.

        But I give up. Better people than I are against it. No one is for it.

        Ted, other than not believing in the supernatural (that’s a big one, I know), I consider myself a “Practical Catholic”. You won’t have to take any lumps from me.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Bill, “other than believing in the supernatural, I consider myself a practical Catholic” ?????

          You are publicly disavowing Christ.

          You are not and can not be a Catholic if you do this. You are not and can not be a Christian if you do this.

          Stop the verbal sophistry Bill. You can not publicly disavow Christ as if it was a parlor game.

          • Bill S

            I have not publically disavowed Christ. I have confided in my brother, sister and one cousin and that is it. Your blogs are my only outlet to see if I can find any acceptance if I were to be honest about my “loss of faith”. I can’t. I’m screwed. There is more persecution in store for a non-believer than for a believer.

            On a more positive note, Vickie Kennedy’s testimony is the last nail in the coffin for my voting for Question 2.

            I won’t spout my atheist propaganda on your blogs any more. Thank you for all your help, it’s been enlightening. I’ll keep reading. Fascinating stuff.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              I thought you were making statements that disavowed Christ when you made some of your atheist remarks. I honestly don’t see how atheism can be anything but a repudiation of Christ. But, if we see it differently, it’s really your call and not mine that matters, since it is yourself you are talking about.

              I think you are confusing persecution with the fact that a lot of people are friends because of common attitudes rather than a true affection. I didn’t realize this until I was brought face to face with it in my own life. Of course, your Christian friends will mostly try to work around your new lack of belief. But in time you and they will no longer have enough in common to maintain a genuine friendship. My experience is that there are a few people you can’t lose. At least in my case, that includes any blood relative. But for the most part, friendship is more a matter of propinquity than any of us realize.

              One thing I said that I want you to think about is that you are choosing death and turning away from life. That is exactly what we do when we turn away from God.

          • Ted Seeber

            Rebecca, Practical Catholicism in the Knights of Columbus is defined as following the precepts of the Church- of which faith in God surprisingly isn’t one:

            The Precepts

            1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
            We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”
            2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
            We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
            3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
            This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.”
            4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
            “The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” See below for more about fasting & abstinence.
            5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
            “The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
            (These quotations are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its section about the Precepts of the Catholic Church (#2041-3).)

            All that the Knights of Columbus ask of their members is:
            1. To be male
            2. To be 18
            3. To be baptized
            4. To be a Practical Catholic
            5. To say the Rosary as often as possible

            If Bill is meeting that standard, then I pray for his soul that his faith may return. But considering that Mother Theresa went through the last 50 years of her life never feeling the presence of God, I can’t say that Bill is a bad person for losing his faith.

            A Practical Catholic is NOT the same as a Good Catholic. And there is no guarantee even for a Good Catholic that they will persevere to the end and avoid purgatory or hell.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              I didn’t know this Ted. Thank you.

              • Ted Seeber

                Shocked me too, though I was surprised a few years ago when I finally learned the precepts: Surprised that they didn’t include pro-life. (though see my update in the other post).

                It took this incident for me to notice that they don’t include wilfully accepting faith in God either.

            • Bill S

              Thank you worthy Grand Knight. I was not aware of the precepts. Other than having run into many of them when I attended daily mass, these guys do not come across as particularly religious other than that I see a few of them when I attend mass with my wife every Saturday afternoon. They’re just a bunch of regular guys.

              The only hangup is that I would have to go to confession and tell the priest that I don’t believe in the supernatural. What can he do to me, right? I know there would be nothing he could say to change this belief.

              Sorry. This thread is about Vickie Kennedy, not me.

              • Bill S

                That’s not to say they don’t open and close meetings with a prayer.

                and they end the pledge of allegiance with “and liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.

                I think they are a positive influence on me.

                • Ted Seeber

                  Not to mention the roll call- which always starts with “Our Lord Jesus Christ- Present”- a statement of the reality of the supernatural right there!

              • Ted Seeber

                I was going to ask how you had never heard them- but that would cause me to break one of my degree vows. But given the nature of the degrees, I would not be surprised if your thoughts were elsewhere when they were mentioned.

              • Ted Seeber

                ” I know there would be nothing he could say to change this belief.”

                He might surprise you. Many priests collect well documented cases of the supernatural.

  • Bill S

    “Many priests collect well documented cases of the supernatural.”

    Has conventional, secular science ever been able to confirm any evidence of the supernatural? I’m not aware of a single case. I can see a lot that has been done by the Church and by the K of C that has required no assistance whatsoever from the supernatural. If you look at the entire history of the Church, it all could have happened (except for stories that cannot be verified) without any supernatural influence. I don’t trust a priest to be scientific and objective enough. A lot of so called miracles have turned out to be pious frauds and/or delusions.

    Sorry readers (if anyone still wants to read about the now defunct Question 2). This discussion has strayed from the main topic.

  • http://catholicsforobama.blogspot.com/ Katherine

    Wonderful letter by Mrs. Kennedy. Too bad the Bishop of Worchester (MA) would never let her deliver it on a Catholic college campus.