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AMA reaffirms its opposition to doctor-assisted suicide by huge majority

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

CHICAGO, June 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The American Medical Association has once again rejected physician-assisted suicide by an overwhelming majority, despite lobbying by euthanasia supporters.

After intense discussion, delegates at the annual meeting in Chicago voted 392-162 on Monday to reaffirm the AMA’s existing policy, which states that “Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Delegates also voted 360-190 to adopt the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) report, which recommends the AMA keep its opposition to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, according to MedPage Today.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, described the vote as “great news.”

The AMA have reaffirmed that assisting the suicide of patients is not ethical or a part of medicine,” he told LifeSiteNew in an email.

“We can only hope that the decision of the AMA will result in an understanding that doctors should never be involved with killing their patients.”

Delegates voted in 2016 to ask CEJA to review the AMA policy on assisted suicide. CEJA upheld the AMA policy in May 2018, but in June 2018, delegates again voted that it continue to review the assisted-suicide policy, Schadenberg noted in a blog.

“In October 2018, CEJA adjusted the language of its recommendation while upholding that the AMA maintain its opposition to assisted suicide,” Schadenberg said.

“In November 2018, AMA delegates once again decided to ask CEJA to continue reviewing the AMA policy on assisted suicide.”

CEJA was also asked “to consider the need to distinguish between ‘physician-assisted suicide’ and ‘aid-in-dying,’” MedPage Today reported.

CEJA concluded it “believes ethical deliberation and debate is best served by using plainly descriptive language,” its report stated.

“In the council’s view, despite its negative connotations, the term ‘physician-assisted suicide’ describes the practice with the greatest precision.”

The issue sparked a long and often impassioned discussions at this year’s annual meeting, reported MedPage Today.

“(The report) clearly speaks the truth as to what this involves — it is directly enabling a patient to end his or her life,” said Dr. Diane Gowski of Florida at a Sunday committee meeting, it reported.

“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,” she said.

“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,” added Gowski.

Another delegate pointed to Canada and Oregon in warning of the dangers of legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

“Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997 with repeated assurances that it would stay contained and would not become euthanasia,” said Washington delegate Dr. Shane Macaulay at Monday’s plenary session.

“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,” he said.

Since Canada legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia three years ago and “euthanasia has become a runaway contagion in Canada, with over 4,000 deaths last year,” observed Macaulay.

“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,” he told fellow delegates.

“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.”

Meanwhile, the House of Delegates’ Medical Student Section endorsed a resolution to change the AMA’s position to one of “engaged neutrality” — that is, “neither for nor against physician-assisted suicide,” MedPage Today reported.

That view was hotly contested, however.

“The Medical Student Section of the AMA does not speak for me on this issue,” said Indianapolis medical student Matt Becker at Sunday’s meeting.

“I would argue that choosing to kill oneself is contrary to the human condition and never morally acceptable,” Becker said.

“I also express concern for the autonomy of those coerced into suicide, which is a legitimate concern, especially with regard to the progression to euthanasia. If even one person is killed due to coercion, that amounts to murder.”

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