Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Petition Certified

By Margaret Dore

The Massachusetts' Attorney General's office has completed its certification review of 31 initiative petitions.  The petitions approved include a petition to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

"Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act." (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211). For example, a "physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide." Id.  

Proponents claim that legalization of assisted suicide will give patients "control" of their end of life care.  The proposed law, however, has no required witnesses at the death.  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or other person who will benefit from the death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?

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According to the Attorney General's press release:

1.  "Today’s decisions by the Attorney General’s Office are based on a strict constitutional review and do not represent the office’s support or opposition to the merits of the petitions."

2.  "Proponents of each certified initiative petition must now gather and file the signatures of 68,911 registered voters by December 7, 2011.  Once the requisite signatures are obtained, the proposal is sent to the state Legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2012.  If the Legislature fails to enact the proposal, its proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures from registered voters by early July 2012 to place the initiative on the November 2012 ballot.  An initiative petition, if ultimately passed by the voters, becomes the equivalent of a statute."