Falmouth Doctor And Patient Lose Appeal For Assisted Suicide
BOSTON — The state's highest court has spoken: physician-assisted suicide is illegal in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court published a decision Monday denying a claim brought by a Falmouth doctor and a patient suffering from terminal cancer that would have allowed the patient the right to die.
In its Dec. 19 decision, the SJC defined physician-assisted suicide or medical aid in dying as "the practice of providing a terminally ill, competent patient who has a short time left to live" with medication "to bring about a quick and painless death."
Roger Kligler, a retired physician, has been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer.
Kligler has said if given a six-month prognosis, he would like to pursue assisted suicide, but can't find a doctor in the state willing to provide it.
Alan Steinbach, an urgent care provider in Falmouth, treats patients nearing the end of their lives and told the courts that he wants to provide physician-assisted suicide.
However, he "does not do so out of fear of prosecution," according to the SJC decision.
Assisted suicide has been legalized in ten states and the District of Columbia, but has not been legalized in Massachusetts, according to the court.
In fact, in 2012 Massachusetts voters rejected a ballot measure to legalize the practice.
State lawmakers have also introduced several bills to legalize assisted suicide, but none has made it to a vote — and the current laws prohibit health care providers from giving information about the practice elsewhere.
"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 justices wrote in the decision.