The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled on Monday that physician-assisted suicide is not protected by the commonwealth’s constitution, according to court documents.
The ruling found that physicians could be subject to prosecution by helping patients end their lives. The high court said that this act is not constitutionally protected under the commonwealth’s Declaration of Rights, according to the text.
“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,” the court wrote. “We conclude as well that the law of manslaughter may prohibit physician-assisted suicide, and does so, without offending constitutional protections.”
John Bursch, senior counsel and VP of appellate advocacy for the nonprofit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that they were “pleased” that the court recognized “that the constitution does not recognize a fundamental right to have a doctor take someone’s life.”
ADF filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February 2022 on behalf of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA and argued against physician-assisted suicide in March.
“This is consistent with our protection of life in the pro-life context in a broad variety of states, and it contrasts sharply with what some other states are doing, whether not only authorizing physician-assisted suicide but forcing doctor’s to participate in it,” he said. “So this is just a bright light during this difficult time.”
Kligler v. Attorney General was filed in 2016 by Dr. Roger Kligler, who has stage 4 prostate cancer, and another doctor who feared being charged with manslaughter for administering life-ending medication. Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts along with the district attorney for the Cape and Islands district were listed as defendants since neither “have declined to commit not to prosecute those who engage in physician-assisted suicide based on their conclusion that such a practice is ‘not immune from prosecution in Massachusetts,'” the decision reads.
UPDATE: The MA Supreme Judicial Court has upheld MA’s prohibition on physician-assisted suicide, a ruling ADF attorneys argued for in an amicus. This decision upholds protections for terminally ill and disabled patients whose lives have immeasurable value and must be protected.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) December 19, 2022
Healey’s office told ABC News in a statement that the issue should be debated in the legislature opposed to in court. Healey was elected as Massachusetts’ incoming governor during the 2022 midterm election. (RELATED: Man No Longer Considering Medically-Assisted Suicide Over Poverty Issues After Outpour Of Support)
“Our office understands the complexities of end of life care,” Jillian Fennimore, the AG’s spokesperson, told ABC News. “We are pleased that the Court has affirmed our position that the Legislature is the most appropriate place to have a discussion about this important public policy issue. AG Healey has said she supports legislative action to allow medical aid in dying, provided it includes sufficient safeguards for both patients and providers.”
Currently, 10 states, along with Washington D.C., have legalized physician-assisted suicide, according to the decision.
“It’s just important that Americans understand that doctors in medical practice are supposed to help and heal, not to kill,” Bursch told the DCNF. “It violates the doctor oath to ‘do no harm’ when we encourage those doctors to take other people’s lives. It’s the foundation of practicing medicine, to help, not harm, and this is just another brick in the large wall of patients and doctor protection.”
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA, Healey and the district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. Kligler could not be contacted.
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