MCC calls on faithful to oppose physician-assisted suicide bills

BRAINTREE -- With a shrinking window of time left in the legislative session, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference is urging the faithful to speak out against pending legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, asked parishes in all four dioceses in the state to distribute a bulletin insert on the weekend of April 30 and May 1. The bulletin explained the potential impact of the legislation, and provided directions for contacting members of the legislature and the committee currently considering it.

The proposed legislation consists of two bills, House 2381 and Senate 1384, which are identical in text and titled "An Act relative to end of life options." If passed, they would allow physicians to provide lethal drugs to individuals diagnosed with less than six months to live.

Among the concerns expressed by the MCC are the fact that terminal diagnoses can be incorrect, spurring patients to end their lives months or years before they would die naturally; and the possibility that vulnerable individuals may be unduly influenced to end their lives, especially when there is financial pressure. The MCC also emphasized the responsibility of elected officials to enact legislation providing health care, mental health care, and palliative care to the sick and dying, especially in poor communities.

In October, the MCC encouraged the people in the pews to contact the Joint Committee on Public Health when it was considering the bills. Since then, the bills advanced favorably in the legislature, and they are now being considered by the Joint Committee on Health Care Finance.

The MCC is now asking voters to contact the members of the Joint Committee on Health Care Finance, as well as their state senators and representatives, to express their opposition to physician-assisted suicide and encourage voting against the bills.

The committee has a June 1 deadline to report on the bills. If it gives a favorable report, the legislature will have two months to act on the bills. The legislative session ends on July 31, at which point any bills not enacted would dissolve.

Jim Driscoll, the executive director of the MCC, said they want Catholics to remind the Massachusetts legislators that they oppose physician-assisted suicide.

He explained that the committee's deadline could be extended, but not beyond July 31.

"We don't want to take anything for granted, and we want to make sure that they hear from, hopefully, hundreds of people," Driscoll said.

The text of the MCC's bulletin, and links to find contact information for senators, representatives, and Joint Committee on Health Care Finance members are available at