I was glad to see that lawmakers in Vermont defeated an assisted suicide bill similar to the pending ballot question initiative here in Massachusetts. The article bringing the good news, however, risks conveying an inaccurate impression about how the Massachusetts proposal would work (“Mass. group hails defeat of Vermont suicide bill,” Boston.com, April 14).
The article suggests that the proposed ballot question would allow patients to “self-administer” life-ending drugs. The use of this term could lead the casual reader to think that self-administration is required. It is not. I am a lawyer who has read the proposal. It merely states that a patient “may” self-administer the lethal dose. There is no requirement that administration must be by self-administration.
Also of concern is the fact that the proposal does not require that administration be by disinterested people. Disinterested witnesses are also not required. These factors increase the risk of elder abuse by heirs and other people who stand to benefit from the death.
As a lawyer who has seen my older clients abused, I am hopeful that this Massachusetts proposal will follow the Vermont proposal to the grave.