Monday, October 22, 2018

American Medical Association (AMA) Ethics Committee maintains opposition to assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition


The American Medical Association (AMA), at its annual meeting in 2016, passed a resolution requiring the AMA Council on Judicial and Ethical Affairs (CEJA) to examine the issue of assisted suicide and make recommendations concerning the AMA opposition to physician-assisted suicide.

At the AMA annual meeting in 2017, a resolution was referred to CEJA to examine the language used in the assisted suicide debate. The resolution asked CEJA to consider changing the language from physician-assisted suicide to 'Aid in Dying'.

CEJA submitted a report to the AMA before its 2018 annual meeting affirming the current position whereby the AMA opposes assisted suicide and also affirming the use of the term physician-assisted suicide.

At the 2018 AMA annual meeting some delegates wanted CEJA to reject using the term physician-assisted suicide and after debating the CEJA report they voted to refer the study back to the CEJA to review their previous stance on what language of the debate. 


The delegates did not change the AMA stance on physician-assisted suicide.

CEJA just released a new report recommending that the AMA uphold its opposition to physician-assisted suicide:
The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs therefore recommends that the Code of Medical Ethics not be amended, that Resolutions 15-A-16 and 14-A-17 not be adopted and that the remainder of the report be filed.
The updated CEJA report changed how it expresses its opposition to assisted suicide but it clearly maintains that the AMA continue to oppose assisted suicide. The CEJA report states:
... in the council’s recent Open Forum, both proponents and opponents of physician-assisted suicide observed that in the U.S., debate occurs against the backdrop of a health care system in which patients have uneven access to care, including access to high quality end-of-life care. They also noted that patients and physicians too often still do not have the conversations they should about death and dying, and 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.

Patient requests for assisted suicide invite physicians to have the kind of difficult conversations that are too often avoided. They open opportunities to explore the patient’s goals and concerns, to learn what about the situation the individual finds intolerable and to respond creatively to the patient’s needs other than providing the means to end life—by such means as better managing symptoms, arranging for psychosocial or spiritual support, treating depression, and helping the patient to understand more clearly how the future is likely to unfold. Medicine as a profession must ensure that physicians are skillful in engaging in these difficult conversations and knowledgeable about the options available to terminally ill patients. The profession also has a responsibility to advocate for adequate resources for end-of-life care, particularly for patients from disadvantaged groups. The availability of assisted suicide where it is legal must not be allowed to interfere with excellent care at the end of life.
It is important to note that the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has maintained opposition to assisted suicide while the recent World Medical Association meeting also maintained a strong opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
 

Legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide essentially gives doctors the right in law to cause the death of their patients, a right that the majority of physicians don't want.

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