Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society Testifies In Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide

Massachusetts Medical Society Testifies In Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide

Contact: Richard Gulla 

Boston – October 27, 2015 – The Massachusetts Medical Society today testified before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health in opposition to House 1991, “An Act Affirming a Terminally Ill Patient’s Right to Compassionate Aid in Dying.” 

Providing the testimony for the MMS was Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., vice president for the group, whose membership includes 25,000 physicians and medical students.

The Massachusetts Medical Society has long-standing policy in opposition to physician-assisted suicide, first approved by its members in 1996. Its policy also states its support of patient dignity and the alleviation of pain and suffering at the end of life.   

Quoting from the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, Dr. Dorkin said, “It is understandable although tragic, that some patients in extreme duress may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good.”  

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” Dr. Dorkin said. “Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life in order that these patients continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, and good communication.”

Concluding his testimony, Dr. Dorkin said “What is very clear to all is that there needs to be great compassion for our patients who suffer from terminal and debilitating diseases. The Society is committed to providing 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 our patients and their families.” 

The Medical Society also recorded its opposition to the level of disclosure and the documentation in the patient’s medical record when a physician does not participate in assisted suicide. 

The Society’s testimony indicated that long-standing protocols exist for any patient handoff or transfer and the requirements proposed in the bill only serve to disrupt the physician-patient relationship and further take away from direct patient interface, consultation, and treatment. 

The Society also expressed concerns about provisions in the bill regarding proof of residency provisions and witness requirements, as well as concerns about safe storage and disposal of the dangerous medications.

The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 25,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and Journal Watch alerts and newsletters covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education providing accredited and certified activities across the globe for physicians and other health care professionals.  Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.

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