Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society submits amicus brief to Mass. SJC on case of Kligler vs. Healey

Massachusetts Medical Society submits amicus brief to Mass. SJC on case of Kligler vs. Healey

This week, the Massachusetts Medical Society submitted an amicus brief, jointly with the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts (HPCFM), in a case regarding end-of-life options currently before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The case, filed on behalf of Dr. Robert Kligler, seeks a judicial declaration that medical aid in dying, the court’s preferred term, when performed according to the medically recognized procedure, is not a crime in Massachusetts. As noted at the outset of this brief, the MMS “take[s] no position on the question whether the Commonwealth ought to legalize the practice referred to as ‘medical aid in dying’ (MAID).” Instead, the MMS sought to further our policy of neutral engagement by serving as a medical and scientific resource and offering to the court important considerations that would need to be addressed if MAID were legalized. These include, for example, considerations as to how “terminal illness” is defined in terms of patient eligibility or whether there are exceptional procedural considerations to ensure that patients are making an informed decision and are aware of the full range of options for end-of-life care, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control. We believe there is an important role for the medical community to play in outlining important legal considerations for the court, because authorization of MAID without such legal standards or safeguards raises many serious concerns regarding patient safety and physician liability. In submitting this brief, our goal is to ensure that the court, if they were to legalize MAID, understands the physician perspective on patient safeguards and related guidance such that it may be appropriately contemplated in any accompanying legal framework.

-Carole E. Allen, MD, MBA, FAAP, President, Massachusetts Medical Society

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