Ballot Question 2 (assisted suicide) was defeated in Massachusetts on November 6 by a vote of 51.1% to 48.9%. This is a huge victory considering the fact that the polling in June 2012 indicated that 68% of the people in Massachusetts supported assisted suicide and only 19% opposed it.
The assisted suicide referendum was defeated because there were many people who worked together to oppose assisted suicide from different perspectives. There were three main groups who opposed Question 2 and there were several others who influenced the outcome of the vote.
The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide raised significant money. They developed one radio commercial, three TV commercials and a very effective hand-out.
The No on Question 2 campaign ran a great campaign and developed a TV commercial. They also instituted a very effective “get out the vote” strategy.
Second Thoughts, a disability rights group that was led by John Kelly, were effective in every debate. Kelly was also a spokesperson for the No on Question 2 campaign. Second Thoughts were well connected to the “progressive” elite in Massachusetts.
Defeating the assisted suicide referendum in Massachusetts was done by focusing on what the law would actually do. Early polling indicated that if this were a referendum over whether or not people supported assisted suicide that we would lose.
The campaign was able to convince people that the statute was not safe.
There are several key flaws in the assisted suicide statutes in the states of Oregon and Washington and by focusing on these specific flaws they were able to convince ‘soft’ supporters of assisted suicide to vote no.
Margaret Dore, the leader of Choice is an Illusion is a key person at identifying the flaws in the assisted suicide statutes. Dore has effectively analyzed the statutes and developed campaign style ideas to convince the public that assisted suicide is not safe.
The campaign was successful at getting the media onside. Nine newspapers took an outright NO position on Question 2 and one newspaper clearly supported assisted suicide but was NO position on Question 2. This was an unprecedented success and it was accomplished by the campaign developing effective messages and sticking to them.
Tim Rosales, from the No on Question 2 campaign indicated that message discipline was a key to their success.
There was a lot of good experience gained in the campaign that defeated assisted suicide in Massachusetts. The assisted suicide lobby is not going to stop because they lost in Massachusetts, but rather they are already launching a campaign in New Jersey.
New information indicates that the assisted suicide lobby is also targeting: Hawaii, Connecticut, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana, California and New York.
Canadians should also be concerned. The spokesperson for the Death with Dignity campaign in Massachusetts told the media the day after Question 2 was defeated that they would be helping the Canadian assisted suicide lobby.
Lessons from the Massachusetts campaign:
- Work with a diverse group of people.
- Focus on the actual proposed statute and not assisted suicide itself.
- Work with diverse groups both independently and in coalition.
- Develop a set of effective messages and maintain message discipline.
- Raise as much money as possible, and then raise more money.
- Terminology, use the term assisted suicide and not doctor prescribed suicide or doctor prescribed death.