End of life: the Massachusetts Constitution does not allow assisted suicide

In a ruling on Monday, the Massachusetts Supreme Court said that allowing patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, ” mentally competent with terminal illnesses was not protected by the state constitution.

Therefore, ” manslaughter law can prohibit physician-assisted suicide without undermining constitutional protections “. The final decision on assisted suicide rests with the state legislature according to the court.

She also drew a distinction between physician-assisted suicide and a patient’s choice to refuse medical treatment or food because ” if withdrawal or termination of medical care is not the primary cause of a patient’s death, physician-assisted suicide is » (cf. Voluntary cessation of food and hydration: an assisted suicide that does not say its name?).

This decision follows a complaint filed in 2016 by Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired doctor suffering from prostate cancer causing him chronic pain and another doctor who feared being prosecuted for assisted suicide.

More than a dozen bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide have been introduced in the state’s National Assembly without ever coming to a vote. In 2012, in particular, voters rejected an amendment “ allowing terminally ill patients to receive a lethal dose of drugs ».

In the United States, the medical assistance in dying is authorized in 10 states and in Washington DC (cf. USA: Maine legalizes physician-assisted suicide), according to the advocacy group Compassion and Choices (cf. Assisted suicide: Oregon takes stock and opens up to other states).

Source : AP, Mark Pratt (19/12/2022)

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