Assisted Suicide Moving Towards Passage?

  • MA bill in Health Care Finance
  • Atty Gen Healy signals support
  • Court oral arguments
  • OR removes residency requirement

Once again, the Joint Committee on Public Health has advanced the assisted suicide bill by reporting “favorably” on it and sending it to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The House side of that committee, on March 31st, extended their deadline to act on the bill until June 1st; the Senate side is expected to agree. We now need to focus our efforts on the members of this committee.

Joint Committee on Health Care Financing

Also on March 31st, Attorney General Maura Healy, who is running for governor, announced that now she supports a patient’s “right to die”. Pay attention to this phrase. She doesn’t think the courts can figure out the parameters and policy of such a right, so she wants the legislature do that. She said this in response to a caller on Boston Public Radio. The caller’s neighbor – a nurse with brain cancer – moved to New Mexico so she could receive a “lethal injection”. (If that’s what she was seeking, she’s in for a surprise.) He was listening to the recent court case and was upset that her office seemed to be arguing against the legalization of assisted suicide.

Earlier this month, the MA Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in Kligler v. Healy. This is Dr. Roger Kligler’s appeal seeking a right to assisted suicide. Healy’s office was required to uphold the long-standing prohibition against suicide. Maria Granik represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts rather poorly. She was quite sympathetic to the plaintiffs; she just thought the legislature should enact the law instead of the court. When asked if a doctor prescribing a lethal medication would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter, she said, “Well, the plaintiffs point out that in some cases the doctor might write the prescription for intending to bring relief to the patient, and maybe even perhaps hoping that this lethal medication will not be used…” and was incapable of arguing that it does have the same elements.

Kligler’s lawyer, John Kappos, who was also seemingly weak in his points, at the end clearly said that the basis of his argument – as it is laid out in his brief – is that there is a “right to control the timing and manner of one’s death“. In other words, a right to die, (ie. suicide).

Such a right cannot be limited to terminally ill patients, a point that Chris Schandevel with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – USA makes. His ability to argue this case really put the other two lawyers to shame, for what that is worth. You can watch his engaging testimony (21 minutes long) here:

Chris Schandevel arguing against legalizing assisted suicide

In other news, Oregon removed its residency requirement, opening the door to death tourism. Watch for the next Brittany Maynard that Compassion and Choices is grooming for the media – that compelling sad story about the terrible hardship of traveling across the country to commit suicide convincing us all we should legalize it everywhere. I do not consider it coincidental that one of the first callers in to Maura Healy involved a death tourism story. It also gave the Democratic gubernatorial candidate a chance to signal that even though she had to try to argue against assisted suicide before the court, her heart really wasn’t in it.

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