Physicians, ethicists to discuss ‘death with dignity’ ballot question

Panel will argue for and against Massachusetts Ballot Question #2

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

October 18, 2012

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, residents of the commonwealth will make a life or death choice when they vote on Ballot Question #2: Prescribing Medication to End Life. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, a panel discussion including physicians and medical ethicists will take place at UMass Medical School to help members of the UMMS community understand both sides of the issue before voting.

The panel discussion was spearheaded by second-year medical student and student body co-president Matthew Sloan, who received a flier in the mail about the Massachusetts ballot questions and was surprised to learn that two of the three 2012 ballot questions directly relate to prescribing medication. (The other ballot question is about medical marijuana.)

Through a personal conversation with David Clive, MD, professor of medicine and teacher of the elective “Caring for the Seriously Ill,” Sloan hit upon the idea of a panel discussion about an important issue that will impact him and his classmates as they prepare for careers in medicine. He and fellow second-year medical students Rebecca Lumsden, Emily Tsanotelis, Chelsea Harris and Megan Janes coordinated the panel discussion that will provide an arena for arguments for and against the question.

The panel will include four speakers, two opposed to and two in favor of the question. Dr. Clive and Suzana Makowski, MD, assistant professor of medicine and a palliative care physician, will speak in favor of the ballot question, while Richard Aghababian, MD, professor of emergency medicine and current president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and William Stempsey, SJ, MD, PhD, a professor of philosophy at Holy Cross who specializes in medical ethics, will speak in opposition. Brian O’Sullivan, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Bioethics Core, will moderate the discussion. Each side will be given an equal amount of time to speak about their positions and then they will take questions both from the audience and from questions submitted in advance.

The panel discussion will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the Martha and Arthur Pappas Amphitheatre (Amphitheatre I) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Light food and drink will be served. The event is sponsored by the UMMS Student Body Committee, Health Professionals for Human Rights and UMMS Organized Medicine.

If you have questions, contact Sloan at matthew.sloan@umassmed.edu. RSVP or submit a question in advance here.

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Morse opposes marijuana measure
Broadhurst, Morse speak out about medical marijuana