In a robust pro-life win in Kligler v. Healey, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled there is no right to physician-assisted suicide under the Massachusetts Constitution, nor may a physician raise a consent defense to manslaughter charges. As the Court held:
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.
In recognizing that there is no constitutional right to suicide assistance, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged the amicus briefs filed in the case, including Americans United for Life’s (“AUL”) brief on behalf of Christian Medical & Dental Associations. AUL had worked with local counsel, Andrew Beckwith of Massachusetts Family Institute, to explain why there is no medical standard of care in assisted suicide and the Court should reject any attempt to legalize the lethal practice.
The Court further rejected the argument that since there is a right to withdraw or refuse medical treatment, then there should be a right to assisted suicide. As the Court explains, “We do not agree, but, rather, recognize an important distinction between the refusal of medical treatment and physician-assisted suicide, which lies in fundamental legal principles of cause and effect; whereas withdrawing or withholding medical care is not the primary cause of a patient’s death, physician-assisted suicide is.”
“Suicide assistance is never acceptable medical treatment,” explains Danielle Pimentel, AUL Policy Counsel. “Physician-assisted suicide is rife with ableism and discrimination against the elderly and persons with illnesses. Statutory ‘safeguards’ cannot protect patients from coercion and abuse. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court properly rejected suicide activism that would place vulnerable patients at risk.”
“This decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court properly recognizes that physician-assisted suicide is not healthcare, but an unethical intervention to end a patient’s life,” notes Dr. Jeff Barrows, Senior VP at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. “Legalizing physician-assisted suicide erodes the foundation of trust within the physician-patient relationship. This decision will protect that critical trust as well as vulnerable patients in Massachusetts.”
“The proponents of physician-assisted suicide seek to eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferer,” says Andrew Beckwith, President of Massachusetts Family Institute. “Fortunately, the voters of Massachusetts rejected this evil over a decade ago, and now the highest court in the Commonwealth has confirmed that consensus.”