Massachusetts Medical Society Opposes Assisted Suicide Ballot Prop

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 17, 2012   |   5:34PM   |   Boston, MA

The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide professional association of physicians with more than 24,000 members, today officially declared its opposition to the November ballot question on assisted suicide.

“These are important health care questions for the state,” said Richard Aghababian, M.D., the Society’s president, “and patients deserve to know what we think and where we stand on these issues.”

Dr. Aghababian said the Society’s position on Question 2, Prescribing Medication to End Life, is consistent with the organization’s long-standing policies against physician-assisted suicide. as voted by member physicians of the organization’s House of Delegates.

He said the Society has prepared printed and online materials concerning Question 2. They appear below:

The Massachusetts Medical Society opposes this ballot question.

On November 6, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to vote on Question 2, “Prescribing Medication to End Life.”

We are opposed to Question 2 for these reasons:

  • The proposed safeguards against abuse are insufficient. Enforcement provisions, investigation authority, oversight, or data verification are not included in the act. A witness to the patient’s signed request could also be an heir.
  • Assisted suicide is not necessary to improve the quality of life at the end of life. Current law gives every patient the right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including hospice and palliative sedation.
  • Predicting the end of life within six months is difficult; sometimes the prediction is not accurate. From time to time, patients expected to be within months of their death have gone on to live many more months — or years. In one study, 17 percent of patients outlived their prognosis.
  • Doctors should not participate in assisted suicide. The chief policy making body of the Massachusetts Medical Society has voted to oppose physician assisted suicide.

The Massachusetts Medical Society has reaffirmed its commitment to provide 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 the patient and the patient’s family.



Lynda M. Young, MD, MMS past president, testified about the MMS policy at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2012:

“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. “Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. …  Patients must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”