Massachusetts One Step Closer to Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide
|Thursday, Mar. 1, 2012 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
Massachusetts voters may vote on Nov. 6, 2012 to become the fourth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, along with Washington, Oregon, and Montana.
Massachusetts has an indirect initiative process, which means that all ballot initiatives must pass through the state legislature. The Death With Dignity Act was introduced into in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Jan. 17, 2012 and referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. If the Massachusetts state legislature does not pass the initiative as written by May 1, the campaign would need to gather 11,485 certified signatures between May 1 and July 3 to be considered for the Nov. 6 ballot. Voters who signed the petition during the first signature gathering phase cannot sign the second petition.
Doctors would be required to inform patients about other end-of-life care options, including palliative care, pain management, and hospice care. Two physicians must verify the mental competence of the terminally ill patient and the voluntary nature of the request, and three requests must be made by the patient for the prescription: two oral and one written. The Act would also allow the patient to change his or her mind at any time. No person would be civilly or criminally liable or subject to professional discipline for actions that comply with the law.
The Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts came out strongly against the proposed Death with Dignity Act, saying that it "effectively authorizes the killing of human beings prior to their natural death," and that "a compassionate society should work to prevent suicide, which is always a terrible tragedy, no matter what form it may take."