Massachusetts Lawmakers Still Pushing Voter-Rejected 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.

When the voters had a chance to decide the matter, they said no.

Yet the push to legalize physician-assisted suicide continues in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from elected officials.

State Senator Joanne Comerford (D-Northampton) and state Representative James O’Day (D-West Boylston) re-filed “An Act Relative To End of Life Options” (SD.265/HD.2342) last week.

Some Massachusetts lawmakers have been seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide during the past four legislative sessions. Bay Staters narrowly rejected a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide at the ballot box in November 2012. They voted against it 51 percent to 49 percent; the No side received strong support from minority groups in urban areas, including Latinos.

The bill would allow physicians to provide drugs to “terminally ill” adults for the patient to take, which would first put the patient to sleep and then kill the person. The bill defines “terminally ill” as “having a terminal illness or condition which can reasonably be expected to cause death within 6 months, whether or not treatment is provided.”

Comerford told Connecticut Public Radio last month that she thinks people should be able to decide how they end their life.

“I heard from many constituents about the importance of this bill to them, to their loved ones personally, and then more as a matter of principle,” she said. “People believe that we should have options for the end of life.”

Her statement came four days after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided Kligler vs. Healey. In that case, published December 19, the court ruled that there is no right in the Massachusetts Constitution to physician-assisted suicide.

O’Day advocated for physician-assisted suicide on Twitter last week.

“Medical aid in dying is safe,” O’Dea wrote Tuesday, January 17. “Medical aid in dying is dignified. Medical aid in dying is ethical. I look forward to filing an Act Relative to End of Life Options with @jo_comerford in the coming days.”

Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey was the defendant in the Supreme Judicial Court case, because state law requires the state attorney general to defend the state government (including state statutes) in lawsuits. But Healey is now governor, and she supports physician-assisted suicide. She addressed the matter recently, saying she thinks an assisted suicide bill needs to go through the legislative process to come up with appropriate parameters.

“It’s a really challenging and heart-rending issue, obviously, for so many,” Healey said Tuesday, December 20, 2022, according to GBH News. “What I have said and what I think should happen is that the Legislature should do the work, have the hearings and figure out the best guide rails to put in place when it comes to this.”

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, has condemned the legislature’s push to legalize assisted suicide. He said that the people already decided the issue in this state.

“It is bizarre that at this moment, with the effects of COVID causing a nationwide crisis in mental health, MA politicians are trying to normalize suicide amongst vulnerable populations,” Beckwith told NewBostonPost in an email message. “The targets of this terrible legislation may be the sick and the elderly, but the research shows that legalization of doctor-assisted suicide increases suicides in the general public by creating a suicide contagion effect. MA voters rejected this cynical legislation a decade ago via a statewide ballot. Their elected representatives should finally take that lesson to heart.”

Pope Francis is another opponent of physician-assisted suicide. He ripped the concept in an interview with COPE (People’s Radiowaves of Spain Network), on September 1, 2021.

“What is [deemed] useless is discarded,” Pope Francis said. “Old people are disposable material; they are a nuisance. Not all of them, but of course, in the collective subconscious of the throwaway culture, the old, the terminally ill, and unwanted children, too; they are returned to the sender before they are born.”

“This throwaway culture has marked us,” he added. “And it marks the young and the old. It has a strong influence on one of the tragedies of today’s European culture.”

Massachusetts Citizens for Life executive director Patricia Stewart says that lawmakers should respect the people’s 2012 vote on this issue.

“In 2012, Massachusetts voters rejected assisted suicide because they saw through the soothing catchphrases in a bill that disguised suicide’s ugly reality,” Stewart told NewBostonPost by email. “It’s time for legislators to honor the people’s will and save Massachusetts’s most vulnerable citizens from the falsely compassionate, grisly, and premature death that is assisted suicide.”

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide legislation say that it would ease suffering and that people should be able to decide when they want to end their own life.

The pro-physician-assisted suicide group that calls itself Compassion & Choices is stumping for the bill.

“If passed, the legislation would give mentally capable, terminally ill Massachusetts residents the option to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they could decide to take to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable,” the organization’s web site says.

Ten states and the District of Columbia already have legalized physician-assisted suicide. They are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Comerford could not be reached for comment on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Nor could O’Day.


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