Though assisted suicide continues to gain in popularity, becoming legal in more and more states, the American Medical Association (AMA) refused to speak out against it last year — though for 25 years, the medical organization was officially opposed. Previously, the AMA had argued that it was “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” that it would be “difficult or impossible to control,” “would pose serious societal risks,” and “ultimately cause more harm than good.” And while last year the Board of Delegates chose not to affirm their report opposing assisted suicide, instead choosing to continue to debate the issue, the AMA has finally solidified its stance.
The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs spent years studying assisted suicide and its effects, noting that Europe was a prime example of negative unintended consequences, noting that “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.” After the years of study and debate, the group’s members voted at the annual meeting in Chicago to affirm the CEJA-2 report, which includes a firm opposition to assisted suicide. According to Medscape Today, the report was adopted by a vote of 360-190, and the decision to re-affirm opposition to assisted suicide was passed by a vote of 392-162.
“[The report] clearly speaks the truth as to what this involves — it is directly enabling a patient to end his or her life,” Dr. Diane Gowski said at the meeting. “We would not give our patients a gun or revolver … so we should not be supplying them with lethal drugs. Physician-assisted suicide violates natural moral law. We urge the AMA to stand firm, as any change from the current position will only confuse the public as to the intention and role of their physicians.”
Dr. Shane Macauley likewise spoke against assisted suicide at the meeting, pointing to Oregon as an example as to why.
“Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997 with repeated assurances that it would stay contained and would not become euthanasia. Just last month, the Oregon state House of Representatives approved a bill to allow patient death by lethal injection, showing the inevitable progression from assisted suicide to euthanasia once physicians have accepted the idea that taking a patient’s life is permissible.
In Canada, assisted suicide and euthanasia were legalized only 3 years ago, and in the 3 years we’ve debated this topic here, euthanasia has become a runaway contagion in Canada, with over 4,000 deaths last year. These alarming developments show us that the wheels are coming off the bus on assisted suicide. We do not have the luxury of time to continue to fail to act on the CEJA report while the real-world situation deteriorates. Unless we’re willing to embrace widespread euthanasia, we must accept the CEJA report and reaffirm this policy now as a firewall against what is [happening in] Canada.”
The AMA is the largest and most influential medical organizations in the country, and this opinion will certainly carry weight as assisted suicide lobbyists continue to try to legalize the grisly practice in more states. The World Medical Association has likewise condemned assisted suicide as unethical.
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