Physician Assisted Suicide

Comments on Massachusetts Ballot Question 2: Physician-Assisted Suicide

Posted in Physician Assisted Suicide on November 7th, 2012 by MMS – 2 Comments

From Richard V. Aghababian, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, on the apparent defeat of Question 2, “Prescribing Medication to End Life.”

“We are pleased that the majority of voters agree that a physician’s role is to heal and comfort, not to aid in death. We reaffirm our commitment to provide physicians treating terminally ill patients all the resources necessary to enable them to contribute to the comfort and dignity of the patient and the patient’s family.”

Background: The Massachusetts Medical Society was opposed to Question 2, reflecting its current policy, adopted by the MMS House of Delegates at its 2011 Interim Meeting last December, when more than 75 percent of its delegates voted to reaffirm a policy opposing physician-assisted suicide first adopted in 1996.

MMS current policy also states that the Society “supports patient dignity and the alleviation of pain and suffering at the end of life” and that the Society “will provide physicians treating terminally ill patients with the ethical, medical, social, and legal education, training, and resources to enable them to contribute to the comfort and dignity of the patient and the patient’s family.”

Boston Globe Editorial Opposes Ballot Question on Physician Assisted Suicide

Posted in Physician Assisted Suicide on November 2nd, 2012 by MMS – Comments Off on Boston Globe Editorial Opposes Ballot Question on Physician Assisted Suicide

This morning, the Boston Globe editors announced their opposition to Massachusetts ballot question 2, which would authorize physician-assisted suicide in the state. The MMS is also opposed to the ballot question.

If you’re a Globe subscriber, you can read the full editorial here.

For those of you who can’t access the Globe article, here are its main points:

  • The editors concede that end of life in the U.S. is not optimal: “Too many lives end in hospital beds, after unnecessarily painful side effects from unsuccessful drugs and devices.”
  • Despite these shortcomings, authorizing assisted suicide is “not, in itself, an answer to the far deeper question of how to help patients make end of life decisions.”
  • They added, “Rather than bring Massachusetts closer to an agreed-upon set of procedures for approaching the end of life, it would be a flashpoint and distraction — the maximum amount of moral conflict for a very modest gain.”

The editors cited the MMS opposition to the ballot question. But they also challenged physicians to improve end of life care: “It’s up to the state’s physicians to take the lead in making sure that patients are aware of their options and take full advantage of them.”

The MMS is prepared to accept the challenge. Last year, when our House of Delegates reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, it also directed the MMS to step up its education and support for end of life care for both physicians and patients.

Here’s what MMS President Richard V. Aghababian, MD, said last week at a bioethics forum at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:

“The Massachusetts Medical Society recognizes that there is a lot of work to be done – and not just by those of us in medicine. However, these shortcomings do not justify support for Question 2. They compel us to improve end of life care, not abandon efforts by making the patient feel that suicide is a viable option.”

Earlier this week, the Globe editorialized against Question 3, “Medical Use of Marijuana,” which the MMS also opposes.

For more information

Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics Lecture Series: The Arguments Against Question 2

Posted in End of Life Care, Physician Assisted Suicide on September 20th, 2012 by MMS – Comments Off on Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics Lecture Series: The Arguments Against Question 2

Richard V. Aghababian, MDThis week, MMS President Richard V. Aghababian, MD, spoke at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, presenting the MMS position against the physician-assisted suicide referendum on the Massachusetts ballot.

Dr. Aghababian said, “Physician participation in assisted suicide is fundamentally at odds with our duty to be healers.”

He added, “Our medical society first voted against physician-assisted suicide in 1999. It was reaffirmed in a vote nearly a year ago. At the same time, we reiterated our commitment to provide physicians who treat terminally ill patients with ethical, medical, social and legal education and resources.”