Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) dropped its longtime opposition to legislation that would authorize medical aid in dying in the state. The decision followed a year-long process of debate and deliberation by the society, including a survey of its membership, which found that 62 percent of respondents supported current aid-in-dying legislation, the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act (H.1194/S.1225). MMS’ stance is now one of “engaged neutrality.” Their statement defined that term as follows:
“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.”
Just days after the MMS announced its decision, the Berkshire Eagle weighed in with an editorial asserting that MMS’ change in position is a key step on the road to giving the people of Massachusetts access to a full range of end-of-life options.
“End-of-life decisions should be made by the individual, who should have the right to seek assistance from physicians willing to do so ethically and by following proper safeguards. Let us hope that this commendable move by the MMS hastens the arrival of the day when those rights are guaranteed in Massachusetts.”
In addition, Boston Magazine, which earlier this year published a 2,000 word op-ed by medical aid-in-dying advocate Dr. Roger Kligler, who has stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, voiced its support for MMS’ change in stance and the bill making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature. Chris Sweeney, senior editor at the magazine, wrote:
“As the global hub of medical innovation, it’s time for Massachusetts to catch up.”
This exciting advancement makes the Massachusetts Medical Society the 8th American Medical Association state or district chapter to drop its opposition to medical aid in dying since the California Medical Association did so in 2015.