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BOSTON, Massachusetts, October 30, 3015 (LifeSiteNews) — On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Legislature's Committee on Public Health heard from both sides of the assisted suicide debate as the state debates a measure voters rejected three years ago.

In 2012, voters opposed a ballot question to legalize the practice, 52 percent to 48 percent. Now, H. 1991 — the third iteration of a bill introduced by Rep. Louis Kafka — has 39 cosponsors.

While supporters say the bill would provide compassionate care for those suffering from terminal illnesses, opponents say it opens the door wide to abuse and a devaluing of life.

According to Laura Lambert, a cancer surgeon and palliative care physician at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, in a statement to WBUR, “rather than encouraging our society to demand better palliative and hospice care, this bill runs the risk of creating a society expectation of a duty to die.”

A supporter of the bill, Rep. Lori Ehrlich, told WBUR that “We are nothing, if not a compassionate state.”

“It doesn’t fit that we are telling residents of Massachusetts who are facing terminal illness, with accompanying pain and loss of dignity, that they must endure it all, or if they want more options, pick up and move to another state where the law is already in force,” she continued.

The bill itself would allow patients who are diagnosed with an incurable illness and expected to die within six months to request medication to end their lives.

Two witnesses would need to be present, including a non-relative. A counselor would also have to be included in the process to guarantee soundness of mind. 

Dr. Jacqueline Harvey, who leads the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in America and is a professor of Political Science for Tarleton State University in Texas, told LifeSiteNews that, contrary to what assisted suicide advocates claim, the public doesn't support changing assisted suicide laws.

“The suicide lobby took this assisted suicide directly to the voters in 2012 as ballot Question 2, and the voters rejected it: Republican and Democrat alike,” she said. “Assisted suicide faces strong, bi-partisan opposition, with many prominent progressives joining pro-life conservatives in condemning self-killing.”

“Massachusetts is a Democrat stronghold, and Democrats were critical allies in educating voters about the problems with assisted suicide in 2012. Namely, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of former Senator Ted Kennedy was an influential voice to voters on the dangers and state-sanctioned suicide.”

“Only one bill out of approaching 200 proposals over the last 25 years has survived testimony in committee, gotten sufficient votes and made it to ultimately to a governor's desk: Vermont in 2013. California's bill died in committee earlier this year, and the second attempt only made it to the governor's desk because it was inappropriately rushed through an unrelated special session.

Harvey said that she will be presenting a paper at the Southern Political Science Association Conference that “shows that legislators are not rewarded and face significant risks for supporting assisted suicide, an issue that both Democrats and Republicans oppose, virtually 50% of the time.”