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Massachusetts Euthanasia Laws

Few things are as emotionally painful as having a loved one with a painful, debilitating, terminal illness. And it’s hard not to think of a way to ease their pain. So what exactly are the laws regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide? Here is a brief summary of euthanasia laws in Massachusetts.

Euthanasia Laws

Euthanasia, also called "mercy killing," is the act of helping someone who is either terminally ill or in a great deal of pain end their life. Only a couple of states allow doctor-assisted suicide, but other states allow patients to die naturally in accordance with their stated wishes (usually outlined in a living will). Massachusetts euthanasia laws prohibit the practice of mercy killing, but allow for the withholding of artificial life support under certain conditions.

Euthanasia Statutes in Massachusetts

The main provisions of Massachusetts laws are listed below, with links to related articles and resources.

Code Section

Ch. 201D §12

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to constitute, condone, authorize, or approve suicide or mercy killing or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act to end one's own life other than to permit the natural process of dying.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

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As the law now stands, individuals do not have a constitutional right to physician assisted suicide. In 1997, the Supreme Court decided that the government's interest in preventing intentional killing and preserving life outweighed a patient's interest in the liberty to choose to die. Additionally, the Court differentiated between refusing life-saving medical treatment and asking a physician to end a patient's life, and allowed states the freedom to make laws treating the two acts differently.

Therefore, states may enact laws that protect a patient's right to die, and a few states have done so. In those states, while doctors are allowed to provide lethal doses of certain drugs at the request of their patients, the patients themselves control the act of administering those doses. Other states are continuing to debate whether or not to pass similar measures.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Euthanasia Laws:

State laws regarding euthanasia and the right to die are subject to change. If you would like to know your rights and responsibilities surrounding terminal health care, you can contact a Massachusetts health care attorney and schedule a consultation to discuss your case. You can also visit FindLaw’s Patient Rights section for more general information on this topic.

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