Massachusetts Medical Society: Testimony Relative to House 1926 & Senate 1208, An Act Relative to End of Life Options

Testimony Relative to House 1926 & Senate 1208, An Act Relative to End of Life Options

The Massachusetts Medical Society appreciates the opportunity to provide testimony relative to House bill 1926 and Senate bill 1208, An Act relative to end of life options. Specifically, the MMS wishes to provide information relative to its new position of “neutral engagement” on the issue of medical aid in dying/physician assisted suicide (MAID/PAS).

The Medical Society adopted this policy last year as part of a broader position statement on end-of-life care. The policy states:

“The MMS defines medical aid-in-dying as the act of providing care — palliative, hospice, compassionate — to patients at the end of life. The act of a physician writing a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to be used by an adult with a terminal illness at such time as the patient sees fit will, if legalized, be recognized as an additional option in the care of the terminally ill. (HP) 

The MMS adopts the position of neutral engagement, serving as a medical and scientific resource to inform legislative efforts that will support patient and physician shared decision making regarding medical aid-in-dying, provided that physicians shall not be required to provide medical aid-in-dying that involves prescribing lethal doses of medication if it violates personally held ethical principles. (HP)

The MMS asserts that medical aid-in-dying that involves prescribing lethal doses of medication should be practiced only by a duly licensed physician in conformance with standards of good medical practice and statutory authority. (HP) 

The MMS will support its members regarding clinical, ethical, and legal considerations of medical aid-in-dying, through education, advocacy, and/or the provision of other resources, whether or not members choose to practice it. (HP) 

The MMS supports effective palliative care, especially at the end of life. (HP)”

In light of this new policy, the Medical Society wishes to make a few points regarding House bill 1926 and Senate bill 1208. While the recent vote of the MMS policy-making body changed a longstanding position opposing MAID/PAS, it did not establish an inverse position of support for legislative efforts. Instead, in passing this neutral engagement policy MMS is promising to play an educational role to ensure that legislative efforts do not inadvertently put our patients at unintended risk of any sort. We have closely followed the enabling legislation in the states that have legalized MAID/PAS and appreciate that the prevailing patient protections from other states have been included in the current MA legislative proposals.  

In addition, the new MMS policy, as included above, underscores the importance of voluntary physician participation. We therefore appreciate the thoughtful provisions in Section 15 of these bills which offer the ability of physicians to conscientiously object to participate in this practice, and to provide broad legal protections for those who make this decision. 

In the absence of a position for or against this bill, we wish to reiterate our commitment to actively listening to the continued discourse on this topic; to pledging to serve as a medical and scientific resource as appropriate within this new neutral position; and to assuring the public that the Massachusetts Medical Society stands ready to help support its members regarding clinical, ethical, and legal considerations of medical aid-in-dying, whether a physician chooses to participate in any authority provided under these two bills if they are to pass.

And most importantly, we continue to underscore the need for effective palliative care, especially at the end of life. We hope that, regardless of the fate of this bill, the impassioned stakeholders from both sides of the debate can all agree on the importance a broad-based, systematic commitment to improve access to hospice and palliative care for all persons in the Commonwealth.

Share on Facebook

Find Your Legislator

Click here to enter your address and get a list of your federal representatives, state legislators, and your local polling place.

Find Your Legislator »

Mass. State Agencies

State House - Mass. State AgenciesRapid access to resources about MassHealth, Public Health, Board of Medicine, and more.

Read More »

FacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTube

Copyright © 2019. Massachusetts Medical Society, 860 Winter Street, Waltham Woods Corporate Center, Waltham, MA 02451-1411

(781) 893-4610 | (781) 893-3800 | Member Information Hotline: (800) 322-2303 x7311