Kligler v. Attorney General
Description: Two Massachusetts doctors are challenging the commonwealth’s prohibition on physician-assisted suicide.
MA Supreme Judicial Court upholds protections for terminally ill, disabled
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.
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Chris Schandevel serves as senior counsel on Alliance Defending Freedom’s Appellate Advocacy Team. Before joining ADF, Schandevel served as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals Section at the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. Prior to his time at the Virginia attorney general’s office, Schandevel clerked for the Honorable Stephen R. McCullough on the Court of Appeals of Virginia. Schandevel earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. Schandevel earned his B.A. in Social Work from Harding University in 2009. A member of the state bar of Virginia, Schandevel is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and various state and federal trial and appellate courts.