Mass. Medical Society opposes ballot questions


Sept. 24, 2012
WALTHAM – The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide professional association of physicians with more than 24,000 members, today officially declared its opposition to the November ballot questions on physician-assisted suicide and medical marijuana.

"These are important health care questions for the state and patients deserve to know what we think and where we stand on these issues," Richard Aghababian, M.D., the Society's president, said.

Aghababian said the Society's positions on Question 2, Prescribing Medication to End Life, and to Question 3, Medical Use of Marijuana, are consistent with the organization's long-standing policies against physician-assisted suicide and the use of marijuana as medicine, as voted by member physicians of the organization's House of Delegates.

He said the Society has prepared printed and online materials on both questions stating the reasons behind its opposition and is making those materials available to physicians and patients.

MMS Opposition to Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life

The Society's stand against Question 2, Dr. Aghababian said, is based on the idea that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer. He also said that predicting a person's end of life within six months, as the ballot question states as a requirement, is difficult, as such predictions can be inaccurate. Many times patients who are expected to die within months have outlived their prognosis, sometimes for years.

Aghababian added that the ballot question also lacks provisions to ensure that patients are protected from making uninformed decisions and protected from being coerced into making the decision to end his or her life.

MMS Opposition to Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana

The Medical Society clearly stated its opposition to medical marijuana when its House of Delegates adopted its current policy in May at the organization's annual meeting.

Aghababian said claims for marijuana's medical effectiveness have not been scientifically proven because it has not been subjected to the same rigorous, scientific testing as other drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. He also cited the health risks posed by marijuana, as the contents of marijuana smoke are more poisonous than tobacco smoke and its use has been associated with long-term impairment of mental capacity.

The Society's policy states that "Until such time that scientific studies demonstrate its safety and efficacy, the Massachusetts Medical Society opposes the legalization of medicinal marijuana and cannot support legislation intended to involve physicians in certifying, authorizing, or otherwise directing persons in the area of medicinal marijuana outside of clinical trials."

The policy also includes a statement that advocates for the reclassification of marijuana by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration so that its potential medicinal use by humans may be further studied and potentially regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, as well as language that supports the development of non-smoked, reliable delivery systems for cannabis-derived and cannabinoid medications for research purposes.

More information on the Society's positions on ballot questions is available online at www.massmed.org/Question2 and www.massmed.org/Question3 .

The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 24,000 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 please visit www.massmed.org , www.nejm.org , or www.jwatch.org .




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