The Boston Globe: Cape Cod doctor’s quest to legalize medically assisted death goes before SJC

An excerpt from the Boston Globe article, “Cape Cod doctor’s quest to legalize medically assisted death goes before SJC,” published March 5, 2022:

"Two years ago, Dr. Roger Kligler needed a walker to travel a short distance from his Falmouth home. Then a loop or two around his cul-de-sac expanded to three or four. Eventually, Kliger was trekking to another neighborhood.

Nowadays, the 70-year-old physician, who was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, finds clarity with a meditative two-hour evening walk near a pond and bird sanctuary. Like so many times since Kligler became ill, his health has declined — only to remarkably rebound.

'I should be long dead,' Kligler, who has stage 4 prostate cancer, said Thursday via Zoom.

His experiences as a patient, as well as a doctor, have framed his views on dying. Kligler is the force behind a drive to legalize medically assisted death in Massachusetts. His case, which has stirred passionate debate on both sides, is scheduled to go before the Supreme Judicial Court for oral arguments Wednesday...

Kligler and the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, which pushes for better end-of-life options, in 2016 sued Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe over the constitutional right to die.

In 2019, the Suffolk Superior Court dismissed all but one count on summary judgment, saying patients do not have a constitutional right to end their lives with the help of their doctors. But the court ruled that physicians have the right to counsel patients about end-of-life options...

Some form of medically assisted death is legal in 10 states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington ― plus Washington, D.C.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters narrowly defeated a 'death with dignity' ballot referendum, which would have allowed terminally ill patients to obtain lethal drugs if they had six months or fewer to live. Opponents outspent supporters by a 5-1 margin. Fierce opposition came from a broad coalition of religious, conservative, and antiabortion activists across the country.

This isn’t about anybody wanting to die, said Kligler’s lawyer, John Kappos. There would be strict parameters to determine a patient’s eligibility and competency, he said.

'We are talking about people who are seriously medically ill, usually it’s cancer patients, people who have debilitating illnesses,' Kappos said. "They want to live, they wish they didn’t have the illness. They’re just facing the reality of a lot of suffering, as they get down to days and weeks from dying and they want this option as a peace of mind and a way to just feel more comfortable and in control of their final days.'"