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.

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