To The Editor:
As a surgeon in Massachusetts since 1965 I have cared for thousands of terminal patients and must disagree with your editorial position on Question 2.
What you may not be aware of is the multiple modalities we now have to eliminate or diminish pain through anesthetic nerve blocks and neurolysis, as well as patient controlled analgesia devices (PCA).
You have also failed to appreciate the expanding role of hospice care, also now covered by Medicare. Hospice is a multidisciplinary approach to supportive care of the terminally ill.
However, you confuse me by supporting suicide in spite of stating that “Very small numbers of patients have sought to end their lives through this law.”
There are good reasons why the Mass Medical Society is against this becoming law. Pain can be controlled, but predicting death in six months is often wrong. New medications are even prolonging good quality of life for years after being diagnosed with a short fatal prognosis.
As for Question 3, you didn’t mention that the Massachusetts Medical Society opposes medical marijuana because there is no scientific evidence of its safety and efficacy. We are an evidence-based profession and I see no reason for the ACLU to enter the practice of medicine.
We do recommend that the federal regulations reclassify marijuana so that scientific research and clinical trials can ascertain any effectiveness of cannabis.
At this time the only evidence we have concerning marijuana is that frequent smoking is associated with a significant reduction in IQ after as little as ten years of use.
Vincent J. Russo, M.D.