Massachusetts Has Already Spoken: We Don’t Want Physician-Assisted Suicide

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Note: If you or someone you know is in a crisis and needs help, call 911 for emergency services or call the 24-hour 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline hotline at 988 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center near you. Additionally, you can also call the national Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court told us what we already knew on Monday.

The court, correctly, reaffirmed that there is no right to physician-assisted suicide in the Massachusetts Constitution in the Kligler v. Healey case.

“Although we recognize the paramount importance and profound significance of all end-of-life decisions, after careful consideration, we conclude that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights does not reach so far as to protect physician-assisted suicide. We conclude as well that the law of manslaughter may prohibit physician-assisted suicide, and does so, without offending constitutional protections,” the court said in a decision Monday, December 19.

Roger Kligler, a doctor in Falmouth who has prostate cancer, and Alan Stenbach, a doctor in Falmouth who would like to be able to prescribe life-ending drugs for terminally ill patients, were the plaintiffs in the case. The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, headed by Governor-elect Maura Healey, was the defendant. 

Here’s a suggestion for the pro-physician-assisted suicide side in Massachusetts:  for the good of the people, please drop this effort.

This is the second major defeat the pro-euthanasia side has endured in this state; they also lost 51 percent to 49 percent at the ballot box in November 2012. That’s the poll that matters, not the poll from Suffolk in April 2022 that claims 77 percent support the practice; the November 2012 poll where 3.1 million people voted is a far better indicator than Suffolk’s poll asking 800 Massachusetts residents. 

Massachusetts residents do not want this ugly practice in their state, and there is no right to it in our Constitution. Also, despite advocates and legislators who hate democracy pushing for these bills in the state legislature in the past several sessions, it has never come up for a vote. Many valid criticisms of Beacon Hill’s leadership exist, but they understand this is a divisive issue and it’s not something Bay Staters are begging them to legalize.

While supporters argue that physician-assisted suicide is a way to alleviate people’s pain and suffering, legalizing this pro-death practice is a horrible idea.

The point of health care is to save people’s lives, not end them. We also live in 2022. Modern medicine exists. We have options that can help treat pain. It may be impossible to eliminate pain entirely given that pain is a part of the human experience. But human life has intrinsic value. We only get one life on this earth and, at times, it’s difficult.

However, life has beauty and meaning and fatal diagnoses are sometimes wrong.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, United States Ambassador to Austria and the widow of the late U.S. senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), was among those who made a compelling case against physician-assisted suicide in 2012. She noted that her late husband at one point received a fatal cancer diagnosis; doctors told him that he had two to four months left to live. He outlived their prognosis by 15 months and was a productive member of society. 

He was taking votes in the United States Senate, throwing out the first pitch at the Boston Red Sox game, finishing his memoir True Compass, and preparing for the end of his life.

Now, we’re no fans of Ted Kennedy at NewBostonPost. However, the point it illustrates:  if a rich and famous politician can receive a misdiagnosis that could have cut his life short by more than one year if physician-assisted suicide were an option, imagine what would happen to middle-class, working-class, impoverished, and disabled Bay Staters if this were legal.

We don’t have to imagine, unfortunately. This culture of death is sadly a reality in many places.

In Belgium, for example, you don’t have to have a terminal illness diagnosis to have a doctor kill you; that provision was removed in 2002. And in 2014, the so-called Right to Die was extended to terminally ill children. So in Belgium, it’s now legal to kill children outside the womb as well as inside it. 

It’s not just Belgium, either. In February, two healthy American women went to Switzerland and never returned; they died by assisted suicide, according to The Daily Beast

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, are legalizing physician-assisted suicide for mental illness beginning next year. A medical worker in the country even suggested the irreversible killer to a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder last summer; what a way to thank people for their service. 

And in Colorado, there have been documented instances of people using physician-assisted suicide because of eating disorders

Our society and politicians should work as hard as possible to prevent people from killing themselves. Suicide is a tragedy regardless of the method used, including a lethal injection from a physician.

Instead of finding new and cruel ways to kill people, the government should work on finding new and innovative ways to save people’s lives, raise the country’s life expectancy, and foster a society in which people want to live — not kill themselves.

It’s not often that the good guys prevail on moral issues in Massachusetts, but hopefully, they continue winning on this issue. After all, some people’s lives depend on it.


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