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American Medical Association approves resolution to ‘study’ assisted suicide

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

CHICAGO, IL, June 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The Hemlock Society, now known as "Compassion and Choices," is praising the American Medical Association (AMA) for a resolution agreeing to study the question of assisted suicide, despite the AMA's long-standing opposition to the practice.

The AMA's House of Delegates voted to move the euthanasia resolution forward to the AMA Board of Trustees. The Trustees are expected to move the idea forward to the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, which will reevaluate the current AMA policy prohibiting doctors from killing patients.

“The AMA’s decision to study a possible change in position on doctor-prescribed suicide is very concerning for the future of the integrity of the medical profession,” said Dr. Jeff White, a member of the Louisiana State Medical Society and physician ally of Louisiana Right to Life. “For millennia, the medical profession has been in unison that physicians prescribing death for their patients is antithetical to the mission of healing integral to the role of a physician.’

Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President, agreed. “Any change in the AMA’s ethical policy on physician-assisted suicide will only corrupt the medical profession, and ultimately pave the way for suicide-on-demand," he told LifeSiteNews.

"To adopt such a policy would be to render schizophrenic the mission of doctors," he said, since a doctor's "moral obligation is to save lives, not end them. The minute this commitment is blurred, the more compromised they become."

"This is a lose-lose for doctors, their patients, and society," Donohue concluded.

The AMA resolution to study assisted suicide was initiated by retired surgeon Glenn Gordon, a former advisory board member of Compassion & Choices of Oregon.

"Hospice care has improved markedly in the past couple of decades, and (now) works cooperatively when patients request the option of medical aid in dying," Gordon said.

In discussing Gordon's resolution, the AMA House of Delegates concluded, "Many states have proposed or adopted legislation to legalize (medical aid-in-dying), introducing a potential conflict for our members in those states. Additional testimony recognized the need  for  our American Medical Association to respond to this highly relevant and expanding issue that may impact medical practice, looking to the Council for guidance."

The AMA is the largest association of physicians in the United States, and has opposed physician-assisted suicide since 1993. But its daughter organization, the California Medical Association (CMA), surprised many in the medical community by abandoning its 28-year policy opposing assisted suicide. The California organization adopted a "neutral" position on the issue last year.

The CMA’s decision to adopt a "neutral" stance enabled California to pass the state's End of Life Option Act. Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont have also legalized physician assisted suicide.

Dr. Lester Ruppersberger, President of the Catholic Medical Association, told LifeSiteNews that his Christian organization "acknowledges the dignity of all life from the moment of conception to naturally occurring death,” and “opposes any manner of physician assisted suicide, either voluntary or mandated."

The 35-year physician explained, however, that being in favor of “normal care” for all and against "mercy killing" is not the same as being against the artificial prolongation of dying.  

"The Catholic Medical Association does acknowledge the obligation of the physician to provide the normal care…including nutrition and hydration, and, the careful evaluation of futile treatments that would prolong waning hopes for recovery."

The AMA's mission is "to promote the art and science of medicine for the betterment of the public health, to advance the interests of physicians and their patients, to promote public health, to lobby for legislation favorable to physicians and patients, and to raise money for medical education."

The AMA publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association, which has the largest circulation of any weekly medical journal in the world.

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