The Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) members have discussed and debated the issue of aid in dying for many years. CSMS does not take this issue or policy lightly, nor do we wish to impugn those who have opposing views on this important matter. We believe that our position reflects our strong commitment to the Hippocratic Oath, while adjusting to changing times and individual physician’s beliefs.
The adopted policy of “engaged neutrality” supports each physician to act in accordance with her/her personally-held ethical principles. CSMS acknowledges that principled and ethical physicians hold a broad range of positions and opinions on this issue. We are committed to protecting our members’ freedom to decide what medical aid-in-dying options to provide to patients in accordance with each patient’s and physician’s personally-held values, beliefs, and ethical standards, while recognizing the need for shared decision making between the physician and a terminally-ill patient.
CSMS believes that our position of “engaged neutrality” will allow us to serve as a medical and scientific resource in policy discussions regarding patient and physician shared decision making regarding all legal medical aid-in-dying options. Any legislation that involves prescribing lethal doses of medication must contain very clear parameters and adequate safeguards for both physicians and patients.
To be clear, this position is not an endorsement by CSMS of HB 5898, or support for legalizing the option of a physician writing a lethal prescription for a terminally-ill patient. However, it is an acknowledgement that, if passed in Connecticut, each physician must be allowed to proceed according to his/her own ethical beliefs and values, and that appropriate safeguards be put in place to avoid potentially putting our patients at risk, while preserving a terminally-ill patient’s autonomy and respect for his/her wishes. The ethical basis of our medical care of patients must always be care that promotes the patient’s needs above all else. This must first and foremost include the provision of palliative, hospice, and compassionate care as essential to end-of-life care with the avoidance of unnecessary suffering.
Claudia Gruss, MD
President, Connecticut State Medical Society