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Judiciary, Suicide by Physician

Suicide Assistance Is Never Medical Care, In Massachusetts or Any State

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether to decriminalize suicide by physician if a doctor prescribes lethal drugs in accordance with a “medically acceptable standard of care” to a capable, terminally ill, adult patient. Working with local counsel, Andrew Beckwith of Massachusetts Family Institute, Americans United for Life filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Christian Medical & Dental Associations explaining why there is no medical standard of care in assisted suicide and the court should reject any attempt to legalize the lethal practice.

If a court decriminalizes suicide by physician, there would be virtually no patient safeguards, AUL argues in its brief. Statutes legalizing the lethal practice only emerged in recent history, and even with their “safeguards,” have not adequately protected patients. Judicial decriminalization of the practice would not even have the semblance of these statutory safeguards. It is especially difficult for physicians to ensure patient competency and informed consent in assisted suicide. Further, “terminally ill” is a vague, indefinite term that may result in irreversible, lethal consequences for patients. 

“Suicide assistance dehumanizes human persons and degrades the medical profession,” stated Carolyn McDonnell, AUL Staff Counsel. “Those who promote suicide by physician, are doing little more than experimenting with lethal drug compounds on human persons who may or may not even be facing a true end-of-life scenario. Where suicide assistance is lawful there is virtually no government or medical regulatory protection. Suicide assistance in all its forms discriminatorily judges a human person’s value based upon their health condition or disability status. Where suicide assistance becomes lawful, suicide prevention becomes impossible. Suicide is not medicine.” 

The court will hear oral argument in Kligler v. Healey in March.