The Massachusetts Medical Society’s (MMS) House of Delegates voted to adopt a new position of “neutral engagement” on the practice of medical aid in dying December 2, one day after a survey was released showing the society’s members backed the state’s End of Life Options Act by a 2-1 margin.
“If medical aid in dying is legalized, the MMS will support its members with clinical and legal considerations through education, advocacy and other resources, regardless of whether the member physician chooses to practice medical aid in dying,” said a Massachusetts Medical Society news release announcing the shift.
“I am excited about this decision because the Legislature greatly respects the medical society’s positions on healthcare issues, and its previous opposition to medical aid in dying was a serious roadblock to passing legislation authorizing this end-of-life care option,” said Dr. Roger Kligler. Kligler is a retired internist in Falmouth living with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer and plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Compassion & Choices asserting the Massachusetts constitution and state law already authorize medical aid in dying.
The District of Columbia Council and Colorado voters passed medical aid-in-dying laws in 2016, and the California Legislature did so in 2015 after their local medical associations dropped their opposition and adopted neutral positions.
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health held a hearing on the End of Life Options Act on Sept. 26, when it heard from more than 25 supporters, including family members of loved ones who died with needless suffering, faith and legislative leaders, hospice and medical professionals, and social workers. The legislative deadline for the committee to take action on the bill is Feb. 7.