Yesterday, December 3rd, the Massachusetts Medical Society released a statement reaffirming its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. This statewide association of physicians has over 23,000 members who voted by a wide margin to oppose assisted suicide. The vote was part of a larger policy to reaffirm patient dignity at the end of life, and was approved by more than 75% of delegates. This is good news in a state that faces a 2012 ballot measure on the issue.
MMS Physicians Reaffirm Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide
December 3, 2011
Contact: Richard P. Gulla
Phone: (781) 434-7101
Email: [email protected]
Waltham, Mass. — December 3, 2010 – The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide association of physicians with more than 23,000 members, today voted to reaffirm its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, with its House of Delegates voting by a wide margin to maintain a policy the Society has had in effect since 1996.
Opposition to physician-assisted suicide was part of a larger policy statement that includes recognition of patient dignity at the end of life and the physician’s role in caring for terminally-ill patients. The policy was approved by more than 75 percent of the Society’s delegates.
Lynda Young, M.D., president of the Society, said that “Physicians of our Society have clearly declared that physician-assisted suicide is inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer and health care provider. At the same time we recognize the importance of patient dignity and the critical role that physicians have in end-of-life care.”
Dr. Young said the policy goes beyond a single statement of opposition to physician-assisted suicide to include “support for patient dignity and the alleviation of pain and suffering at the end of life.” Additionally, it includes the Society’s 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.”
The policy was one of several reaffirmed and adopted at the Society’s 2011 Interim Meeting, which brings hundreds of physicians from across the state to examine and consider specific resolutions on public health policy, health care delivery, and organizational administration by the Society’s House of Delegates, its policy-making body. Resolutions adopted by the delegates become policies of the organization.
Among other policies adopted by the Society at its meeting, held Friday and Saturday, December 2-3.
Maximizing Influenza Vaccination Among Health Care Workers –The Society adopted a policy that supports efforts by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other health care organizations and institutions to maximize annual seasonal influenza immunization rates for all direct patient contact health care personnel without medical contraindications through all appropriate means. In the event other means are not successful at maximizing rates, the MMS would support mandatory immunizing programs.
Confidentiality Statement of Principles – Physicians expanded an extensive Confidentiality Statement of Principles Policy, covering patient rights to confidentiality on medication information in health insurance, information technology and electronic medical records, public safety and marketing, and consumer use. The policy was expanded to include genetic information, including testing and disclosure.
MMS Health Care Access Initiative – The Society voted to develop and implement the MMS Health Care Access Initiative, a program to improve recruitment and retention of primary care physicians. The policy includes pursuing fund-raising efforts and developing a strategy to sustain the initiative.
Other resolutions considered at the meeting were changes to the organization’s bylaws and procedures of the House of Delegates.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 23,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and Journal Watch alerts and newsletters covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country. For more information, visit www.massmed.org, www.nejm.org, or www.jwatch.org.