Individual medical professionals and many national medical organizations strongly oppose legalizing assisted suicide as a practice that constitutes abandonment of the patient and a corruption of medicine. As a palliative care specialist at Mass General states, “Our flawed health care system, steep medical costs, and ageism all contribute to interest in physician-assisted death…The implicit message is that being sick is pitiful and burdensome.”
Local medical professionals express the following concerns:
- ALL people deserve to receive appropriate medical care, regardless of economic state, ethnicity, age or disability. The most vulnerable patients will suffer from legalization of lethal drugs by creation of a financial incentive for insurance companies and governments to save money by approving coverage of cheaper lethal drugs and denying lifesaving treatment, as has happened in states where assisted suicide is legal.
- Currently, there are many specialties in medicine and large numbers of physicians and healthcare professionals with no familiarity with patients at the end of life. Proposed assisted suicide legislation in Massachusetts allows physicians and healthcare professionals with (1) no expertise and no knowledge of the patient and (2) the inability to accurately diagnose depression to prescribe lethal drugs.
- The Massachusetts Medical Society rightly advocates for much better funding for palliative care, hospice care and compassionate care as the way to treat patients with terminal conditions.
- The Hippocratic Oath states: “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view toward injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.” This 2,500 year old statement acknowledges that the doctor-patient relationship is a delicate one where trust is the linch-pin to quality health-care. Patients must trust their doctor will never abandon them.
Very many national medical organizations oppose the legalization of assisted suicide as a practice that would harm patients and the medical profession.
In 2019, the members of the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to reaffirm the organization’s position statement against assisted suicide by a landslide, reiterating, “[p]hysician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
The American College of Physicians (ACP) also released a position paper opposing the legalization of assisted suicide on, “the basis of substantive ethics, clinical practice, policy, and other concerns,” asserting, “[assisted suicide] is problematic given the nature of the patient–physician relationship, affects trust in the relationship and in the profession, and fundamentally alters the medical profession’s role in society.”
A statement by National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) explains, “as palliative care ‘intends to neither hasten nor postpone death,’ LAD [legally accelerated death] is not a palliative intervention. In light of the underuse of hospice and palliative care to alleviate suffering, lack of comprehensive health care for persons with serious illness, lack of research about the outcomes of LAD, concerns of disability rights advocates regarding protections from coercion, longstanding racial bias in medicine, disparities in health and medical care, and lack of protections to ensure voluntary participation, NHPCO opposes LAD as a societal option.”
This list of organizations that oppose assisted suicide is extensive and their reasons for opposing thoughtful and compassionate. It is not in the best interest of Massachusetts’ patients or medical professionals that assisted suicide be legalized in this state.