Tuesday, March 8, 2022

If assisted suicide were legal, plaintiff in Massachusetts assisted suicide court case may have died prematurely.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In January 2020 the US assisted suicide lobby appealed a  Massachusetts Superior court decision finding that there was no right to assisted suicide in Massachusetts. Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. 

Important article: EPC-USA files brief to Massachusetts Supreme Court in the Kliger assisted suicide case (Link).

Roger Kligler
The Kligler case concerns Dr Roger Kligler, who is living with prostate cancer and seeking death by assisted suicide and Dr Alan Schoenberg, who is willing to prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs to Kligler. Kligler who claimed to be terminally ill when launching the case in 2016, is very much alive today.

Kligler and Schoenberg are arguing that the Massachusetts state constitution protects doctors from being criminally prosecuting for prescribing lethal drugs for assisted suicide to a competent terminally ill person.

Tonya Alanez interviewed Dr Kligler for the Cape Cod news. Alanez wrote:
Two years ago, Dr. Roger Kligler needed a walker to travel a short distance from his Falmouth home. Then a loop or two around his cul-de-sac expanded to three or four. Eventually, Kliger was trekking to another neighborhood.

Nowadays, the 70-year-old physician, who was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, finds clarity with a meditative two-hour evening walk near a pond and bird sanctuary. Like so many times since Kligler became ill, his health has declined — only to remarkably rebound.

Kligler told Alanez that he doesn't qualify for assisted suicide but he wants the option when the time comes. It is interesting that Kligler admits that he has rebounded several times. Since qualifying for assisted suicide is based on an estimated prognosis, if assisted suicide were legal in Massachusetts, he may have died already.

EPC-USA submitted an Amicus brief to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in the Kligler case stating:

  • There is no fundamental right to physician-assisted suicide in the Massachusetts Constitution.

The Appellants seek to establish a previously unrecognized right to “medical aid in dying,” where a doctor prescribes lethal medication for use in committing suicide. But the widespread prohibition—not acceptance—of assisted suicide is deeply rooted in Massachusetts’ and the Nation’s history and tradition. And the vast majority of states and secular medical associations oppose it today.

  • There is a fundamental difference between refusing medical treatment and assisted suicide.

Creating a right to physician-assisted suicide would not be a mere expansion of the right to refuse life-saving treatment. The right to reject treatment is based on the common-law right to reject a battery. And death occurs, if at all, by natural causes. Assisted suicide is different: it invites the intrusion of a lethal agent into the patient’s body, intentionally causing death.

  • A right to assisted suicide cannot be a limited right as claimed by the appellants.

Appellants are wrong to suggest a constitutional right to assisted suicide could be limited to a narrow class of people. And that would create problems courts are not equipped to solve.

If there is a right to assisted suicide then it would be discriminatory to limit that right to certain groups of people, such as people who are terminally ill.

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