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When Massachusetts residents cast their votes for president and Congress, they’ll also be voting on a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Just a few weeks ago, Ballot Question 2 seemed to be cruising toward passage. But then the opponents started pushing back – and now the momentum seems to be on their side. 

If Ballot Question 2 passes, terminally ill patients will be able to get prescriptions they can then use to end their lives. Supporters say it’s a humane way to give the dying control — and alleviate their suffering. Reading resident Heather Clish is a spokeswoman for Dignity 2012, a group that supports Question 2. After battling brain cancer, her father Lee took his own life in Oregon — one of two states where assisted suicide is legal. Clish said that option made his father’s last days richer than they would otherwise have been.

Until recently, Massachusetts voters seemed to support making the same option available here. A month and a half ago, a poll by Suffolk University and Channel 7 showed nearly two thirds of voters in favor of Question 2. But then the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide launched a major push. In one ad, a pharmacist speaks into the camera warning that the reality of physician-assisted suicide will be bleak:
"This is Secanol, a powerful narcotic. If Question 2 passes this is how physician assisted suicide will be carried out. No doctors – no hospitals – just a hundred of these. A patient will break up to 100 capsules into water and drink it all down, in their own home, with no doctor present. This is what some people call death with dignity."
 
And that push seems to be giving voters pause. A new Suffolk/7 poll released last week finds that support for Question 2 has dropped precipitously – with 47 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed. Roseanne Bacon Meade, a former head of the Massachusetts Teacher’s Association, is the point woman for the opposition. She says she’s not surprised by the shift.  Meade says "We’ve always known this was an education movement, and that if people were educated as to the flaws of Question 2 and the dangers of Question 2, people would begin to look a second time. And if they did, they’d want to vote no."
 
The flaws Meade cites include no mandatory family notification – and no mandatory counseling. Her allies include Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. In a video homily, posted on the cardinal’s blog, he makes it clear that he wants Catholics to vote no.  O’Malley says "We cannot ignore the impending legalization of physician assisted suicide as if it did not affect us. It would bring spiritual death, a cheapening of human life, the corrupting of the medical profession. PAS means making doctors nurses, pharmacists, friends, and society itself accomplishes in suicide."
 
Whether O’Malley’s involvement will help or hurt remains to be seen. It could make liberal voters who disagree with the Catholic Church’s stance on issues like gay marriage and abortion less likely to oppose Question 2. But Meade says the church’s role shouldn’t be overstated.  She says that people of all faith s are working to inform people of what she says are the dangers of the bill.

And that wide range of opposition could keep Question 2 from becoming law.