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Ballot Question 2: Should Mass. Allow Physician-Assisted Suicide?

BOSTON (CBS) - Come election day, Massachusetts voters will have to weigh in on three ballot questions.

Question Two would allow a terminally ill patient to request medication from a doctor to end his or her life.

Regardless of whether voters decide to approve or deny the question, the issue has struck an emotional chord with many voters.

Dr. Marcia Angell says she will support the ballot initiative on election day because of her father, a cancer patient who shot himself when he felt he had no other options.

"The law would be a matter of choice," Angell said. "No patient has to ask for it, and no doctor has to comply with the request."

If passed, the law would apply only to adults who are capable of making their own decisions and have a terminal illness with less than six months to live.

Only then can a licensed physician write the prescription for the lethal medication.

Some powerful institutions, including the Catholic Church and the Massachusetts Medical Society, are opposing Question Two.

"We feel that assisting a patient who is planning for suicide is against the tenets of medicine," said Dr. Richard Aghababian. "It is very hard to predict six months in advance when someone is going to pass away from an irreversible or incurable disease."

Massachusetts would be the fourth state with physician-assisted suicide, if this ballot question passes.

Since it was first passed in Oregon in 1998, 596 people have taken their own lives with a doctor's help.

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