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Massachusetts court rejects bid to legalize physician-assisted suicide

On Monday December 19, Massachusetts’ top court ruled the state’s constitution does not protect the right to physician-assisted suicide, dealing a loss to advocates for terminally ill patients wanting to control when and how they die.

The ruling (see also below) came as result of an earlier this year started lawsuit by a retired physician suffering from prostate cancer and a doctor who was willing to prescribe lethal medications for his patients but feared prosecution for manslaughter.

Justice Frank Gaziano, writing for the 4-2 court, said that while the court recognized the “paramount importance and profound significance of all end-of-life decisions,” the state’s constitution does not protect physician-assisted suicide. He said physician-assisted suicide raises philosophical and regulatory questions “best left to the democratic process, where their resolution can be informed by robust public debate and thoughtful research by experts in the field.”

The RTD organization Compassion & Choices, that helped bring the case and advocates for medical aid in dying, called the ruling a setback and said they would turn their attention to the state legislature.

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