In our next post, we will continue discussing the Pastoral Plan, Disciples in Mission, and the current problems and outlook for parishes.
Today, we discuss a bill to legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide, H1998,that is about to come up for hearings with the Massachusetts Healthcare Committee on December 17. This measure is much worse than the measure narrowly defeated at the ballot box in 2012. Ideally, it would be rejected in committee and no move on to a full legislative vote. Mass Citizens for Life sent out an alert about the measure last week. What have the Catholic bishops in MA or the Mass Catholic Conference said about this? Nothing. In fact, the Mass Catholic Conference has said not said a thing about any issue to people who follow their news alerts in the past 9 months. Silencio. BCI questioned the capabilities and competency of the MCC head, James Driscoll, hired in 2011, and our reservations about him then have been proven valid.
Here is the MCFL notice:
The hearings of the Health Care Committee on H-1998, Doctor-Prescribed Suicide are definitely on for Tuesday, Dec 17th from 10am to 1pm in Room A-1 at the State House. If there are a lot of people, they may extend the time.
There are 18 committee members. Three of them are definitely with us and another is a possibility. The rest take pro-abortion positions but are unknown on DPS. This is a finger-in-the-dike operation. The dike will not break this week, but…
This session the bill did not get out of committee in Maine and Connecticut. In NJ it is out of committee but will not be voted on.
Vermont passed DPS in May. It is a complete mess up there with the hospitals all opted out. Almost every doctor practices at a hospital and is paid by the hospital, no pharmacists will participate. So far, no one has used DPS and our people are hoping to repeal. The situation is so bad that the lobbyist working on our side in Vermont has asked to address the MA committee on the 17th.
You need to know that H – 1998 is much worse than Question 2. There is now no waiting period. If a doctor or facility will not write a prescription, they must find another doctor or facility to write the prescription. These people lost the ballot question but will never go away.
What can you do?
2) Plan to testify on the 17th or to submit written testimony.
Stress that this is dangerous and poor public policy. Pick one or two of the things that strike you as really dangerous and write your testimony around them
Here is what the Massachusetts Patients Rights Council says about this measure:
MASSACHUSETTS COMPASSIONATE CARE FOR THE TERMINALLY ILL ACT (H 1998)
On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Massachusetts citizens defeated a measure (Question 2) that would have permitted doctor-prescribed suicide. The ballot question cannot be put before voters again until 2018. However, assisted-suicide advocates indicated that they would try once again to address the issue in the legislature.
On January 16, 2013, Representative Louis L. Kafka — who has introduced other doctor-prescribed suicide bills that failed — filed the “Massachusetts Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act” (H 1998). H 1998 is still pending.
Patterned on the Oregon and Washington assisted-suicide laws, the bill differs, in part, with those laws, creating additional loopholes that place vulnerable patients at risk.
- has a provision permitting a physician to dispense a lethal prescription without requiring a second physician to affirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis. [Section 7 (2) (a)]
- does not require that the prescribing physician refer a depressed or mentally ill patient for a psychiatric or psychological consultation unless the physician believes that the patient’s depression or mental illness is causing impaired judgment. [Section 8]
- does not require any waiting period between the time the patient is diagnosed with a terminal condition and the time the lethal dose is prescribed. It requires only one written request without any mandated oral requests. [Section 3] requires two people to witness the written request. However one of those witnesses can be a relative, an heir, or the employee of a health care facility where the patient is receiving medical care or is a resident. [Section 3 (3)]
- may permit an appointed health care agent to request the lethal dose on behalf of the patient. Massachusetts law provides that a health care agent “shall have the authority to make any and all health care decisions on the principal’s behalf that the principal could make.” [M.G.L.A. 201D § 5]
- Nothing in the bill explicitly prohibits a health care agent from making the written request on behalf of the patient.
Therefore, as written, the Massachusetts bill would permit a physician to:
Determine (correctly or incorrectly) that a patient has a terminal condition and, even though the patient is depressed, does not have impaired judgment;
Write the lethal prescription on the same day as the diagnosis, based on the patient’s written request which was witnessed by the patient’s emotionally controlling spouse and a close friend of that spouse.
Clearly this is a bad measure that needs to be stopped. Why is MCC saying nothing about this? Why did MCC say nothing about gambling this year? What is MCC Executive Director, James Driscoll actually doing these days, and what has he done for the past two and a half years to justify his excessive six-figure salary? (Driscoll had only worked in state government prior to his appointment at MCC and has acknowledged coming into his first job in state government out of college by virtue of his father, John T. Driscoll, a former House member and Chair of the Mass Pike. He is, coincidentally, the brother-in-law of Kathleen Driscoll, Jack Connors’ hand-picked Secretary for Institutional Advancement, and James Driscoll was chosen by Fr. Bryan Hehir).
If you want to find out what MCC is doing and why we have heard nothing from them in 9 months, write to James Driscoll <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Peter McNulty <email@example.com> at MCC and ask them what is going on. Let us know what you hear.