The Massachusetts Medical Society voted to repeal its policy regarding assisted suicide and euthanasia on Saturday, moving from its well-established opposition to the practice to a “neutral engagement.”
“The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) rescinded its longstanding opposition to physician assisted suicide, or the act of a physician writing a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to be used by an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,” the MMS wrote in a statement on its website.
“Medical Society adopted the position of neutral engagement,” the statement continued. The Medical Society’s new policy also means that it can serve as a resource for legislative efforts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. The policy also says it supports a decision-making process that includes input both from the patient and their physician.
Its new resolution, accepted by the institution’s House of Delegates, now serves as organizational policy. In order for the resolution to be recognized state-wide however, Massachusetts legislatures must pass a bill that allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication. The Massachusetts state Legislature is considering an “end of life options” bill which MMS formerly opposed.
“We’re not going to take our previous position, dig in our heels, and say, ‘We won’t think about this or look at it from all perspectives,’” president of the MMS, Dr. Henry Dorkin, said in an interview explaining how the resolution will change the way the society views assisted suicide according to the Boston Globe.
“This is wonderful and a game changer,” Dr. Roger Kligler, a physician suffering from metastatic prostate cancer, told the Globe. Physician Mark Rollo worries however, that the change in policy will endanger those who are poor and disabled, as doctors will encourage patients to end their lives rather than cost hospitals expensive prolonged treatments.
“Many of my closest allies absolutely believe that this is murder and I think we can’t discount the power of that commitment or passion,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert who told the Globe that the medical community is divided on doctor-assisted suicide.
After the resolution went public, the Patients’ Rights Action Fund said the Medical Society had given up its responsibility to protect vulnerable patients.
“Legal has never been synonymous with ethical, and what has defined the medical profession is its ethical standards,” executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund and Worcester native, Matt Valliere, said in a statement obtained in an email sent to TheDCNF. “Through the ages the ethical duties of physicians have been implemented to protect patients from exploitation,” Valliere continued.
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