Skip to content

MA Supreme Judicial Court upholds protections for terminally ill, disabled

ADF attorney argued in support of Massachusetts’ prohibition on physician-assisted suicide
Physician-assisted suicide is neither compassionate nor an appropriate solution for those who are suffering.

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Monday to uphold the commonwealth’s common-law prohibition on physician-assisted suicide, a ruling Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys had argued for in court and in a friend-of-the-court brief. Significantly, the court also preserved the “well settled” distinction between “withdrawing or refusing life-sustaining medical treatment” and “attempting suicide.”

“Every human life—regardless of disability or illness—has immeasurable value, and the government must do all it can to protect life, especially for the most vulnerable who cannot advocate for themselves,” said ADF Senior Counsel Chris Schandevel, who argued before the court in March. “Every life is worth living. And we’re pleased the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the commonwealth’s long established legal tradition of protecting the dignity of every human life until natural death. Physician-assisted suicide radically degrades the practice of medicine. Patients should be able to trust their doctors to support and care for them. Offering terminally ill or disabled patients a ‘quick exit’ through death-inducing drugs destroys that trust.”

ADF attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February on behalf of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA in support of the commonwealth’s protections for the terminally ill and disabled. The court allowed Schandevel to participate in oral arguments on behalf of the coalition.

“Application of the law of manslaughter to physician-assisted suicide passes constitutional muster because the law is reasonably related to the State’s legitimate interests in preserving life; preventing suicide; protecting the integrity of the medical profession; ensuring that all end-of-life decisions are informed, voluntary, and rational; and ‘protecting vulnerable people from indifference, prejudice, and psychological and financial pressure to end their lives,’” the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote in its opinion in Kligler v. Attorney General.

The court further stated its opinion recognizes “the limits of our Constitution, and the proper role of the judiciary in a functioning democracy.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Schandevel (SHAN’-deh-vell)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

# # #