SILVER SPRING, MD October 31, 2012 ( – The American Nurses Association has released a drafted position statement that explains its “strong” opposition to nurse’s participation in active euthanasia and assisted suicide.  At the same time, a leading anti-euthanasia campaigner has expressed concern about what he says is ambiguous language in the document on the withdrawal and withholding of nutrition and hydration.

The document is not yet ratified and is open for public comment until November 30.

If ratified, the ANA would join the American Medical Association in saying that the “clinician’s participation in assisted suicide is incompatible with professional role integrity” and that assisted suicide and euthanasia “violate the social contract the professions have with society.”  Both organizations have “vowed to honor the sanctity of life and their duty not to inflict harm.”


The document acknowledges the “distress” nurses suffer when asked to participate in active euthanasia and assisted suicide, and asserts that limits to their commitment to the patient’s right to self-determination “do exist.”

The nurse is not allowed to “administer the medication that will lead to the end of the patient’s life,” says the draft document.


Even in states in which assisted suicide is legal – Oregon, Washington and Montana – the ANA directs nurses to refrain from participation, as doing so would violate The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements.

For anti-euthanasia advocates, there is cause for concern, however, in the section of the document on the “withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments (WWLST).

Alex Schadenburg with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told that he is “concerned that they have taken a position that food and fluids are extraordinary treatment.”

“There must be a distinct differentiation made between withdrawing hydration and nutrition from a person who is nearing death and withdrawing hydration and nutrition from a person who is not otherwise dying,” he said.

“When hydration and nutrition is withdrawn from a person who is nearing death, especially when the body is shutting down, then it leads to a natural death,” Schadenberg explained. “In fact, as a person nears death, it sometimes becomes necessary to withdraw fluids and nutrition because the body has become unable to assimilate.”

In contrast, “When hydration and nutrition is withdrawn from a person who is not otherwise dying, for instance, a person with a head injury, then the cause of death is intentional dehydation… which is the cause of death.”

Schadenberg credited the ANA, saying, “We congratulate the ANA for recognizing that euthanasia and assisted suicide are not ethically permissible for nurses to participate, but we strongly challenge the concept that hydration and nutrition should be can ethically withdrawn from a person, unless the person is actually nearing death.”

The ANA represents the interests of the nation’s 3.1 million nurses and takes part in establishing standards of nursing practices.