In a major step forward for the aid in dying cause, the Massachusetts Medical Society has voted to adopt a neutral position on proposed aid in dying legislation for Massachusetts. The vote was by a massive 152 to 56 majority. In announcing its decision, the Society said that its neutral position would allow the organization to serve as a medical and scientific resource as part of legislative efforts that will support “shared decision making” between terminally ill patients and their physicians.
Dr. Roger Kligler, a Falmouth physician suffering from metastatic prostate cancer, supported the resolution to end the society’s opposition to physician-assisted suicide. The neutral stance, he said, removes a major hurdle facing efforts to make it legal in Massachusetts for physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally patients who request it. “This is wonderful and a game changer,” Kligler said.
Earlier this year, the Society polled its members, and a solid 60% supported the passage of aid in dying laws!
This is great news, and an excellent sign of prospects for success in Massachusetts. This is exactly what happened in the past few years in both California and Colorado, where the state medical society adopting a neutral position was a prelude to aid in dying laws being adopted, by the legislature in California, and by binding ballot initiative in Colorado. The state medical society is saying, we’re not opposed to this, and individual doctors should feel free to follow their conscience and their own sense of ethics, both in whether to support aid in dying being legal, and whether to participate in it when it’s legal. The most prestigious doctors in the state are signaling, aid in dying is consistent with medical ethics, it is the highest form of compassion, and it should be adopted! Clearly, at the highest level of these bodies of doctors, opinion has changed in our favor, and it is shifting fast. Which is not surprising. Doctors and nurses know best of all how dying can be horrible, how palliative care can be limited in its ability to relieve suffering, and how it can be a very rational choice to skip one’s final agonies when death is approaching.
Here’s the report from the Boston Globe on December 2.