Saturday, September 14, 2013

Poll: the majority of doctors oppose assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A recent online poll conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) asking physicians whether they supported assisted suicide found that the majority of doctors oppose assisted suicide. The NEJM poll was published on April 11 and closed on April 24, 2013. 

NEJM reported the results in this way:
Readers from 74 countries cast 2356 unique votes; U.S. readers from 49 states cast 1712 votes. Overall, 65% of the readers thought that physician-assisted suicide should not be permitted; the rate among U.S. voters was similar, with 67% voting against physician-assisted suicide.
It is interesting that the NEJM poll found that 67% of those who participated in the poll opposed physician-assisted suicide considering how the poll was done. The NEJM featured a case study based on a person who was terminally ill, cognitively aware, who had a clear desire to die by assisted suicide.

The NEJM then published two options, one opposing physician-assisted suicide by Margaret Somerville and Dr J Donald Boudreau one supporting physician-assisted suicide by Dr Nicola Biller-Andorno.

The NEJM poll followed the World Medical Association (WMO), who reiterated its opposition to euthanasia. From the WMO Resolution on Euthanasia:
Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. This does not prevent the physician from respecting the desire of a patient to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness.
The WMO also reiterated its opposition to assisted suicide. Their resolution:
Physicians-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically. However the right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient and the physician does not act unethically even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient.
The American Medical Association opposes physician-assisted suicide. The AMA policy states:
It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress--such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness--may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.
Recently the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) upheld its position opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide at its annual convention. 

A recent poll by the CMA also found that the majority of Canadian doctors oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

A similar survey by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) that was done in November 2010 found that of the CSPCP members who responded to the survey, overwhelming majority (88%) were opposed to the legalization of euthanasia while (80%) were opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide.

The CSPCP survey also found that (90%) of responding members would not be willing to participate in the act of euthanasia while (83%) of responding members would not be willing to assist a suicide.

Margaret Somerville

The comments by Margaret Somerville and Dr Donald Boudreau are good to reiterate here:
Permitting physician-assisted suicide creates a slippery slope that unavoidably leads to expanded access to assisted suicide interventions — and abuses. Advocates of euthanasia deny that slippery slopes exist, arguing that legal constraints and administrative safeguards are effective in preventing them. But the evidence is clearly to the contrary, as the High Court of Ireland recently affirmed. In upholding the constitutionality of the prohibition on assisted suicide, the justices wrote, “. . . the fact that the number of LAWER (`life-ending acts without explicit request') cases remains strikingly high in jurisdictions which have liberalised their law on assisted suicide . . . speaks for itself as to the risks involved.”2 Vulnerable communities in our societies — persons who are old and frail and those who are disabled or terminally ill — perceive themselves to be threatened.3 Physicians must not be willfully blind to these serious dangers.
Doctors must continue to be healers and carers and never allow themselves to become killers.

Links to other similar articles:
Canadian Medical Association delegates opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Rebranding Killing and Suicide. The ugly truth about Euthanasia.
Most Canadian doctors oppose euthanasia.
The World Medical Association opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide.


Unknown said...

You people are selfish pricks. Who the hell are you to tell a chronic patient who is suffering through pain and frailty that they don't get to make the final choice to let go? The family still gets the opportunity to say goodbye. For a lot of them, it's the only control they have left in their lives. Let them go out with their dignity. By that point they've bloody well earned that right. You have no issue putting down a sick dog. People deserve the same right.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Chris:

Thank you for your kind remarks.

You appear to be confused. This article reports on the findings that doctors do not want to kill their patients.

We believe in caring for people, not killing them.