MMA Revises Its Policy on Physician Aid-In-Dying

5/25/2017
At its May 20 meeting, the MMA’s Board of Trustees revised its 25-year old position on physician aid-in-dying. The MMA will oppose any bill unless it includes specific protections detailed in the new policy. 

The decision came after extended discussion among board members as well as a variety of engagement activities with membership. 

The MMA took a deliberate approach to this topic as it’s quite sensitive with members. It held a policy forum with members, convened a task force and conducted a member-wide poll. The poll went out in April, garnering more than 700 responses. Seventy percent of poll respondents endorsed the recommendation to modify existing policy by withdrawing opposition and moving towards conditional opposition.   

The MMA is not alone in reconsidering its position on this topic. A number of other state medical societies have revised their positions on physician aid-in-dying, including California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Oregon. 

The revised policy is: 
“Physician aid-in-dying raises significant clinical, ethical, and legal issues. A diversity of opinion exists in society, in medicine, and among members of the Minnesota Medical Association. The MMA acknowledges that principled, ethical physicians hold a broad range of positions on this issue. 

“The physician-patient relationship is a sacred trust. This relationship must be protected through all stages of life including the dying process. The trust and honesty central to this relationship applies to the difficult decisions made at end-of-life, and encompasses any decision to engage in aid-in-dying. 

“The MMA will oppose any aid-in-dying legislation that fails to adequately safeguard the interests of patients or physicians. Such safeguards include but are not limited to the following: 
1.    must not compel physicians or patients to participate in aid-in-dying against their will;
2.    must require patient self-administration; 
3.    must not permit patients lacking decisional capacity to utilize aid-in-dying;
4.    must require mental health referral of patients with a suspected psychological or psychiatric condition; and
5.    must provide sufficient legal protection for physicians who choose to participate.

All physicians who provide care to dying patients have a duty to make certain their patients are fully aware of hospice and palliative care services and benefits.”

The MMA remains opposed to euthanasia, which is generally defined to mean physician- or other provider-administered direct actions.