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Massachusetts lawsuit seeks court intervention in assisted suicide

Posted By October 27, 2016 | 5:26 pm | Commentary
Voters in 2012 protest against an assisted suicide ballot question that was narrowly defeated.
Voters in 2012 protest against an assisted suicide ballot question that was narrowly defeated.

EDITORIAL The Catholic Free Press

The experts have been warning us to beware that the right-to-die movement will be coming back to Massachusetts in 2018 to place a referendum question on the ballot seeking to make physician-assisted suicide legal in Massachusetts. The voters in 2012 narrowly defeated such a ballot question.
The state legislature has apparently considered the issue a “hot potato” and has, thus far refused to make any changes to the law that would allow people to have a doctor  write them a prescription for life-ending drugs.
Thursday morning, however, a news report from the Associated Press announced that two Massachusetts doctors have filed a lawsuit to see if the court will decriminalize the dispensing of lethal doses of medication for the purpose of ending a person’s life.
Apparently the death forces don’t want to wait any longer for Massachusetts to act so Compassion & Choices, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that works on end-of-life issues, is assisting the doctors in filing the lawsuit.
They are even trying to change the language used to describe the suicidal action. They want to call it “medical aid in dying.” How benign that sounds. But don’t be fooled.
Two Cape Cod doctors, Roger Kligler and Alan Steinbach, filed the lawsuit.
According to the news report, Dr. Kligler  has terminal cancer and he wants to be able to obtain medication to end his life if his suffering become too much for him to bear.
Dr. Steinbach apparently wants to be able to provide the life-ending drugs without fear of criminal prosecution.
Compassion & Choices knows full well that what these doctors want to do is currently not legal in this state. The group’s director of legal advocacy claims that Compassion & Choices is concerned that there are no “statutory guidelines on what can be done.” It seems that it is pretty clear what can and cannot be done. They are trying to push some sort of court action to circumvent the will of the people and the legislative process.
“Massachusetts’ practice of prosecuting people who have encouraged or provided the means for another’s suicide creates uncertainty as to whether informing or advising patients regarding medical aid in dying or providing a prescription for medial aid in dying is also a prosecutable offense,” the suit says, according to the AP report.
It seems that the law is very clear that Massachusetts will prosecute – and that means it is still illegal. There is no confusion on the part of these doctors, it is just that the law doesn’t allow them to do what they wish to do. Their lawsuit is apparently an effort to force the court into reinterpreting a law which clearly does not allow physician-assisted suicide. It is not the job of the court to make law and we would hope that the court is not drawn into this social experiment of allowing – then forcing – a doctor to provide a person with the means of killing himself or herself.
Education on this subject must continue and the local Witness for Life organization, which was formed after the 2012 referendum, will continue its advocacy against doctor-prescribed suicide. Witness for Life held its fourth forum last weekend where discussion of end-of-life care was the topic. Visit, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter, to keep informed of the current issues regarding assisted suicide and threats to life.