Viewpoint: Physicians should be permitted to help patients die

Haider Warraich, MD, a fellow in cardiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., argues physicians should help terminally ill patients to die on their own terms in an opinion piece published in The Boston Globe.

Dr. Warraich noted the importance of medicine becoming more patient-centered and how patients have been allowed to have a more significant voice in their own care. "Nowhere is that more evident than at the end of life, and no issue embodies this principle more than medical aid-in-dying," Dr. Warraich added.

Dr. Warraich noted the Massachusetts Medical Society voted to drop its opposition to medical aid-in-dying legislation in December. The laws permit physicians to write a lethal prescription for terminally ill patients who are mentally capable and have six or fewer months to live. By removing its opposition, the MMS became the nation's ninth state medical society to stop opposing medical aid-in-dying within the last two years.

Although physicians have traditionally opposed physician-assisted suicide, Dr. Warraich argues there is data that suggest that aid-in-dying helps to increase end-of-life care quality.

For example, Dr. Warraich notes Oregon's medical aid-in-dying law has helped encourage hospice enrollment. Additionally, the recent passage of aid-in-dying in California has not only promoted end-of-life care conversations, but has improved end-of-life care for patients who do not make use of the law. Because of these benefits, Dr. Warraich argues the American Medical Association should make efforts to reconsider its opposition to aid-in-dying.

"Terminally ill people should be allowed to die on their own terms," Dr. Warraich wrote. "The MMS agrees, and the Massachusetts Legislature and the American Medical Association should too."

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