Legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide moved forward in the Massachusetts General Court – the state’s legislature. The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI), a Focus on the Family-affiliated organization, is fighting the measure.
SB 2745, “An Act relative to end of life options,” would allow terminally ill patients to make a verbal or written request to their physician “for aid in dying and a prescription for medication that the patient can choose to self-administer to bring about a peaceful death.”
A joint Senate and House Committee on Public Health moved the measure forward on June 8, with a recommendation that the bill should pass. A companion measure, HB 1926, is also working its way through the Massachusetts House. The House bill has 58 co-sponsors.
MFI says the bills may come up for a vote soon, adding, “Shockingly, even with the increase of deaths amongst the elderly due to Covid 19 and disruption to the medical field in general, legislators on Beacon Hill have cynically pushed this bill forward.”
The organization has a briefing on the legislation, which points out that voters rejected a similar law in a 2012 state-wide referendum. The group explains that the bills currently under consideration have weaker “safeguards” than that losing referendum, such as lower standards for screening for depression in patients asking for suicide help.
The legislation is problematic for religious and pro-life hospitals, who would be unable to prevent doctors from aiding in suicide in their facilities. The bills also allow physicians to falsify death certificates. Doctors may cite “the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death,” rather than the prescribed drugs that killed the patient.
Doctor-prescribed suicide is open to abuse, MFI argues, “Since it is always cheaper to give a patient 100 pills to commit suicide than to provide real care, insurance companies as well as government-controlled health care will have a financial incentive in recommending death.
ABC News reported a case in Oregon where that’s exactly what happened. A 64-year-old cancer patient received a letter from the Oregon Health Plan, offering to cover drugs for physician-assisted death and refusing to pay for a more expensive treatment option.
While the legislation is supposed to provide safeguards and boundaries around assisted suicide, MFI points out that they often don’t work. In other states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, “doctor shopping” is common, with patients leaving their family doctor and “being steered to a doctor supported by assisted suicide proponents.”
MFI has an action center where concerned state residents can email their opposition to legislators.
Related articles and resources:
Massachusetts Family Institute
Eight Reasons to Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide
Physician-Assisted Suicide Q and A
Focus on the Family: End of Life Resources
Focus Broadcast with Joni Eareckson Tada: Understanding God’s Plan for the End of Life