, Newburyport, MA

October 29, 2012

Vote Yes on ballot questions 1, 2 and 3

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Voters in the Nov. 6 election face an unusually broad swath of political contests and ballot questions.

After reviewing the three statewide ballot questions — questions 1, 2 and 3 — we support passage of all three. Our philosophy on ballot questions is that adults should be allowed to make reasonable decisions that affect their health and life. We feel that all three questions tackle difficult and timely issues that society has grappled with, and that lawmakers have generally seen fit to steer clear of. That leaves it in the hands of voters to decide.

Question 1 asks voters to pass a measure that will allow repair garages to have full access to important computer data stored in their cars. We feel that once a consumer buys a car, he or she should be free to take it to a garage his or her choice, or to a trusted mechanic.

As written, the measure requires that auto companies share with independent repair shops the computer software codes that keep their vehicles running. The codes are the property of the companies (think Ford, General Motors and Toyota), meaning drivers often need to get repairs done at dealerships, where the work costs more.

If the ballot question is approved Nov. 6, the auto industry would have to immediately turn over code information to independent repair shops and would have until 2015 to satisfy a mandate that all new cars sold in the state include an onboard diagnostic and repair system that can be accessed with a standard laptop computer.

Given the high cost of auto repairs, this seems like a slam dunk for drivers.

Question 2 poses the difficult choice of choosing when to end one’s life.

The law would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill adult patients given six months or less to live. This is an issue that has long lingered in this state, yet lawmakers have failed to act on it. Supporters have now turned to a ballot question to push for a decision. This is the same path that has been followed in Oregon and Washington, two of the three states where assisted suicide is legal and has been in practice for the past few years. Very small numbers of patients have sought to end their lives through this law.

The law contains safeguards against abuse, however, as one might expect, these safeguards are not enough for critics. Notably, the measure is opposed by the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents more than 23,000 physicians statewide. “Physicians of our society have clearly declared that physician-assisted suicide is inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer and health care provider,” said the society’s president, Dr. Lynda Young.

We believe that under proper circumstances, patients should be able to choose whether terminal illness and the pain and suffering it causes justifies taking this extreme measure. Based on states and nations where this measure has been in place, we do not see reason to be concerned about misuse.

Question 3 legalizes the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions. It would remove punishment under state law for everyone from patients and physicians to dispensaries and personal caregivers for patients.

This measure is largely opposed by law enforcement, which views it as a means that can easily be abused and can create a gateway to heavier drug use. No doubt there will be some people who will abuse the law. But there are certainly many others who will find legitimate relief from pain through the use of medical marijuana. This is a medical option that, although controversial, has been proven effective for many patients.

Nearly half of the states in this nation have passed laws allowing for the use of medical marijuana, including three of the six New England states.