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Right-To-Die Lawsuit Moving Forward in Massachusetts
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Summary: Last week, a Boston judge allowed an assisted suicide lawsuit to move forward.

Two Massachusetts doctors are fighting for the right to end human suffering without the fear of manslaughter or murder charges. Last week, a superior court judge allowed their lawsuit to move forward, and this case is being closely watched because it may change the state’s stance on right-to-die.


Dr. Roger Kligler and Dr. Alan Steinbach filed for an order that the state’s murder and manslaughter laws would not apply to physicians who offered terminally ill patients access to lethal medications, according to Reuters. Last week, Superior Court Judge Mary Ames in Boston ruled that their lawsuit could move forward because there was uncertainty around the topic of right-to-die.

Kligler is a retired doctor who has been diagnosed with stage-four prostate cancer believes terminally ill patients should have the right to die. Steinbach, who is also a physician but is not treating Kligler, shares Kligler’s belief.

Their case is being handled by the nonprofit right-to-die organization, Compassion & Choices, which said the two doctors want “a legal declaration that medical aid in dying is not a crime in Massachusetts since there is no state law that specifically prohibits this medical practice.”

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Kliger and Steinbach’s lawsuit intends to allow doctors in Massachusetts to offer assisted suicide to terminally ill patients. If Massachusetts does allow aid in dying, they will join other states with right-to-die laws such as Colorado, Vermont, and California.

“My wife Cathy and I are elated with this initial ruling in my favor,” Kligler said. “As a physician who has treated numerous terminally ill adults, I know medical aid in dying provides peace of mind for many dying patients. I do not know if I would use this option, but I want it for myself if my suffering becomes intolerable at the end of my life.”

Currently, physicians in the state who assist suicidal patients risk being charged with murder or manslaughter, even if the patients request and self-administer the medications.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision because it will allow our clients to challenge the constitutionality of the law without having to take actions that could risk prosecution by an aggressive district attorney,” plaintiffs’ lawyer John Kappos said.

The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in court that the state legislature should ensure safeguards that protected vulnerable patients and that the state legislature should decide on the issue. So far, the state legislature has considered but never passed legislature that allows physicians to provide aid to the dying.

“Massachusetts courts recognize a fundamental right of citizens to make end-of-life care decisions, including the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment or nutrition,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices. “We look forward to making our case that there is no rational or meaningful basis to deny medical aid in dying for a terminally ill patient who requests this option to end unbearable suffering.”

In 2012, voters defeated a ballot that would legalize right-to-die by a narrow margin, but the topic has not been brought up again until recently.

What do you think about assisted suicide? Let us know in the comments below.


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