Compassion & Choices praised the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) for voting to maintain a neutral position on legislation giving terminally ill patients the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end unbearable suffering. The MMS’ House of Delegates voted by a 4-1 margin, 93-23, to maintain its position of “engaged neutrality” on Saturday, May 21 (see “Physician Responsibility to Care for Dying Patients” on page 3 posted here).

“After a year of a heated, vigorous debate initiated by a vocal minority of our delegates, the Massachusetts Medical Society overwhelmingly reaffirmed our position of engaged neutrality on medical aid in dying,” said Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired internist in Falmouth living with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer and an MMS Delegate. “The 4-1 margin of victory to maintain this position speaks for itself.”

Dr. Roger Kligler, Photo by Glenn KubalkoDr. Roger Kligler (Photo by Glenn Kubalko)

“The timing and overwhelming margin of the vote could be a tipping point for the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to advance the End of Life Options Act by the June 1 June 1 deadline. We know from experience in other jurisdictions across the nation that if a state medical society opposes a medical aid-in-dying bill, it is hard to pass it, but if it has a neutral stance, it often paves the way for passing this compassionate legislation,” said Melissa Stacy, Massachusetts campaign director for Compassion & Choices Action Network, which is advocating for state lawmakers to pass the End of Life Options Act (H.2381/S.1384). The bill has 86 sponsors and cosponsors.

In fact, 6 U.S. jurisdictions have passed medical aid-in-dying laws, after their state medical societies adopted a neutral position on the legislation: New Mexico in 2021, Maine in 2019, Hawai‘i in 2018, Washington, D.C. in 2017, Colorado in 2016, and California in 2015.

“Massachusetts’ ‘engaged neutrality’ position is even better than a simply neutral position,” said Eric Ruby, M.D., a retired pediatrician in Taunton and an MMS Delegate. “It means if Massachusetts enacts a medical aid-in-dying law, the medical society will offer education and guidance to physicians who want to incorporate medical aid in dying into their practices.”