Breaking News
December 12, 2018 - Sacrificial immune cells alert body to infection
December 12, 2018 - Low-salt diet may be more beneficial for females than males
December 12, 2018 - Major soil organic matter compound battles chronic wasting disease
December 12, 2018 - Findings may open up new ways to treat dwarfism and other ER-stress-related conditions
December 12, 2018 - New computational model provides clearer picture of shape-changing cells’ structure and mechanics
December 12, 2018 - 10 Facts on Patient Safety
December 12, 2018 - Poorest dying nearly 10 years younger than the rich in ‘deeply worrying’ trend for UK
December 12, 2018 - Innovative care model for children with ASD reduces use of behavioral drugs in ED
December 12, 2018 - Spending time in and around Hong Kong’s waters linked to better health and wellbeing
December 12, 2018 - Simple measures to prevent weight gain over Christmas
December 12, 2018 - Research advances offer hope for patient-tailored AML treatment
December 12, 2018 - Researchers discover a ‘blind spot’ in atomic force microscopy
December 12, 2018 - Sprayable gel could help prevent recurrences of cancer after surgery
December 12, 2018 - SLU researchers explore how fetal exposure to inflammation can alter immunity in newborns
December 12, 2018 - How do patients want to discuss symptoms with clinicians?
December 12, 2018 - Zinc chelation may be able to deliver drug to insulin-producing cells
December 12, 2018 - Brigham researchers develop automated, low-cost tool to predict a woman’s ovulation
December 12, 2018 - Some people with Type 2 diabetes may be testing their blood sugar more often than needed
December 12, 2018 - Slow-growing type of glioma may be vulnerable to immunotherapy, suggests study
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new information regarding microRNA function in cellular homeostasis of zebrafish
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new understanding of mysterious ‘hereditary swelling’
December 12, 2018 - Researchers shed new light on how to combat Shiga and ricin toxins
December 12, 2018 - Pregnant Women Commonly Refuse Vaccines
December 12, 2018 - Drug treatment could offer new hope for some patients with brain bleeding
December 12, 2018 - Health care financial burden of animal-related injuries is growing, study says
December 12, 2018 - Macrophage cells could help repair the heart following a heart attack, study finds
December 12, 2018 - Researchers develop new system for efficiently producing human norovirus
December 12, 2018 - New artificial intelligence-based system to differentiate between different types of cancer cells
December 11, 2018 - Brazilian professors propose guidelines for therapeutic use of melatonin
December 11, 2018 - Healthy Lifestyle Lowers Odds of Breast Cancer’s Return
December 11, 2018 - New research identifies two genes linked to serious congenital heart condition
December 11, 2018 - NIH Director talks science, STEM careers with preteens
December 11, 2018 - Disabling a Cellular Antivirus System Could Improve Gene Therapy
December 11, 2018 - New tool swiftly provides accurate measure of patients’ cognitive difficulties
December 11, 2018 - NICE releases new guidelines for diagnosis and management of COPD
December 11, 2018 - Without Obamacare penalty, think it’ll be nice to drop your plan? Better think twice
December 11, 2018 - Researchers capture high-resolution X-ray and NMR image of key immune regulator
December 11, 2018 - Natural flavonoid is effective at treating leishmanisis infections, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Avoidant grievers unconsciously monitor and block mind-wandering contents, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Study identifies how hantaviruses infect lung cells
December 11, 2018 - Improving PTSD care through genetics
December 11, 2018 - Dermatology providers show interest in recommending cannabinoids to patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers to study effects of electroconvulsive therapy on Alzheimer’s patients with aggression
December 11, 2018 - Four dried fruits have lower glycemic index than starchy foods, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Optimization of drug dose sizes can reduce pharmaceutical wastage
December 11, 2018 - Ultrarestrictive opioid prescribing strategy linked with reduction in number of pills dispensed
December 11, 2018 - PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Researchers aim to identify and target high blood pressure indicators
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify immune cell subset that may drive chronic inflammation
December 11, 2018 - Ezogabine treatment reduces motor neuron excitability in ALS patients, study shows
December 11, 2018 - One implant, two prices. It depends on who’s paying.
December 11, 2018 - Standardizing feeding practices improves growth trends for micro-preemies
December 11, 2018 - COPD Tied to Obesity in Male, Female Never-Smokers
December 11, 2018 - Flossing: Information for Caregivers
December 11, 2018 - Does breastfeeding hormone protect against type 2 diabetes?
December 11, 2018 - Educating future doctors to prescribe physical activity for their patients
December 11, 2018 - Krystal 2000 microplate design improves fluorescence and luminescence measurement
December 11, 2018 - FDA clears mobile medical app to help increase retention in recovery program for opioid use disorder
December 11, 2018 - Overcoming Challenges in High-Speed Centrifugation Experiments
December 11, 2018 - Study shows link between neighborhoods’ socioeconomic status and dietary choices
December 11, 2018 - Lower BMI before obesity surgery predicts greater post-operative weight loss, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Obesity May Be Driving Rise in Uterine Cancers
December 11, 2018 - Antioxidants may prevent cognitive impairment in diabetes
December 11, 2018 - Study discovers link between meditation and how individuals respond to feedback
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify potential diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease
December 11, 2018 - Oral cancer prognostic signature identified
December 11, 2018 - How Can I Find Out What Caused My Miscarriage?
December 11, 2018 - Novel personalized medicine tool for assessing inherited colorectal cancer syndrome risk developed
December 11, 2018 - Study uncovers 11 new genes associated with epilepsy
December 11, 2018 - Filling research gaps could help develop more disability-inclusive workplaces
December 11, 2018 - Cartilage tissue engineering brings good news for patients with cartilage defects
December 11, 2018 - Novel 3D printing workflow helps predict leaky heart valves
December 11, 2018 - Imagination can help overcome fear and anxiety-related disorders, shows study
December 11, 2018 - Are caries linked to political regime?
December 11, 2018 - Leader in Diabetes Clinical Trials Wins Naomi Berrie Award
December 11, 2018 - Scientists discover cellular mechanism that triggers pneumonia in humans
December 11, 2018 - Increasing mental health problems related to drug use in over 55’s
December 11, 2018 - High-intensity interval exercise could help combat cognitive dysfunction in obese people
December 11, 2018 - Annual flu shot can save lives of heart failure patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers compare health outcomes for VA and non-VA hospitals
As doctors drop opposition, aid-in-dying advocates target next battleground states

As doctors drop opposition, aid-in-dying advocates target next battleground states

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Kligler, who lives in Falmouth, Mass., serves as one of the public faces for the national movement supporting medical aid in dying, which allows terminally ill people who are expected to die within six months to request a doctor’s prescription for medication to end their lives. Efforts to expand the practice, which is legal in six states and Washington, D.C., have met with powerful resistance from religious groups, disability advocates and the medical establishment.

But in Massachusetts and other states, doctors groups are dropping their opposition — a move that advocates and opponents agree helps pave the way to legalization of physician-assisted death.

The American Medical Association, the dominant voice for doctors nationwide, opposes allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medications at a patient’s request, calling it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

But in December, the Massachusetts Medical Society became the 10th chapter of the AMA to drop its opposition and take a neutral stance on medical aid in dying.

Most of those changes occurred in the past two years. They proved a pivotal precursor to getting laws passed in California, Colorado and Washington, D.C., said Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that supports legalization efforts around the country. (The practice is also legal in Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Montana.)

The shifts come as doctors’ views evolve: Fifty-seven percent of U.S. doctors supported medical aid in dying in a 2016 Medscape survey, up from 46 percent in 2010.

Because of the medical society’s vote, Massachusetts is the state most likely to legalize medical aid in dying this year, predicted David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a national group of 19,000 health professionals that has opposed such laws in every state.

“I think a neutral stance is probably what’s going to push it over,” he said.

Doctors’ opinions are also playing a role in New York, where the New York State Academy of Family Physicians endorsed an aid-in-dying bill, and the state medical society is surveying its members on the subject.

Efforts to legalize the practice have faced pushback nationally: Last year, lawmakers in 27 states introduced aid-in-dying bills, and none passed. And in Congress, Republican lawmakers have launched several attempts to block the District of Columbia from implementing its law.

This year, Compassion & Choices’ Callinan identified New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts as its top three target states.

Peg Sandeen, executive director of Death With Dignity National Center, an aid-in-dying advocacy group based in Oregon, cited Hawaii as another top target. Advocates there are “trying to break the logjam in the legislature,” where the state Senate passed a bill in March, she said. Hawaii came close to legalizing the practice in 2000.

Massachusetts has been a fraught battleground for the right-to-die movement: In 2012, opponents narrowly defeated a referendum that would have legalized the practice. Home to a robust medical hub and Harvard Medical School, the state is a stronghold for academic medicine.

Kligler, who’s 66, has publicly described his interest in using lethal drugs to die on his own terms rather than endure what he expects to be several months of significant pain, fatigue and declining quality of life.

Kligler said he wants other dying people to have the same option: When he used to serve as a hospice physician to cancer patients, he said, patients used to “ask me to help them to die,” but he had no legal way to do so. Kligler is also suing Massachusetts, arguing that terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to medical aid in dying.

“It’s a question of justice,” Kligler said.

When the Massachusetts Medical Society surveyed members last year, 60 percent said they supported medical aid in dying, and 30 percent said they opposed it.

Dr. Barbara Rockett, a surgeon and past president of the medical society, urged fellow doctors to uphold the group’s long-standing opposition to the practice. Doctors should focus on helping dying patients through hospice and palliative medicine, she said.

“To intentionally help them commit suicide is wrong,” Rockett said. Proponents, meanwhile, say the practice is not “suicide” because the patient is already being killed by a terminal disease.

Rockett said she was disappointed that her fellow delegates in the society voted to adopt a neutral stance.

Even with the doctors group stepping out of the way, the latest aid-in-dying bill, dubbed the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act, faces formidable opposition. Catholic groups, a significant force opposing aid in dying nationally, have a robust base in Massachusetts: Over a third of residents are Catholic, second only to Rhode Island.

Catholic groups provided much of the $5.5 million that opponents spent to defeat Massachusetts’ ballot referendum in 2012, outspending proponents by nearly 5-to-1.

The Boston Archdiocese did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. But at the time the referendum failed, a spokesman said the church could not afford to lose on this issue in a Catholic stronghold: “If it passes in Massachusetts,” the spokesman said, “it’s a gateway to the rest of the country.”

KHN’s coverage of end-of-life and serious illness issues is supported in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles