For 25 years, the American Medical Association has opposed assisted suicide. Calling it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” the AMA argued that legalizing assisted suicide would be “difficult or impossible to control” and “would pose serious societal risks.” Allowing doctors to participate in euthanasia would “ultimately cause more harm than good.” But recently, the AMA has been reviewing its Code of Ethics, with the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs giving a report recommending that the AMA maintain its opposition to assisted suicide. Instead, the House of Delegates voted 314-243 not to affirm their report, choosing to continue to debate and review the assisted suicide policy.
The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has already spent two years studying the issue before releasing its report, which had been requested in 2016 by the Oregon Delegation. Assisted suicide is already legal in Oregon. The report cited Europe as an example of unintended consequences, and also noted that in the United States, patients are already not being informed of their options, writing, “too few patients are aware of the range of options for end-of-life care, raising concern that many patients may be led to request assisted suicide because they don’t understand the degree of relief of suffering state-of-the-art palliative care can offer.”
The report also pointed out that similar concerns were raised in 2015 by the Institute of Health, as well as in a 2018 workshop by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. After spending two years reviewing literature, interviewing experts, receiving input from medical organizations, and trying to find common ground, the Council still recommended that the AMA’s opposition to assisted suicide be upheld. Yet the delegates refused to affirm the opposition and instead sent the report back for even more review.
Other medical organizations, in addition to the two cited by the Council, have likewise condemned assisted suicide. The American Academy of Pediatrics has condemned the legalization of euthanasia for children, while the American Psychiatric Association has ruled that psychiatrists “should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death” in response to the rise of euthanasia for people with mental health disorders and mental illnesses in Europe.
For now, as the AMA continues to debate, their current position of opposing assisted suicide will remain in place.
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