Compassion and Choices, the former Hemlock Society and now well-funded promoter of assisted suicide and other death “choices”, is celebrating the new resolution by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to oppose the American Medical Association’s (AMA) long-standing opposition to assisted suicide.
The AFFP, the second largest component society of the AMA with over 131,000 members, just approved a new resolution adopting a position of “engaged neutrality toward medical-aid-in-dying (aka physician-assisted suicide) as a personal end-of-life decision in the context of the physician-patient relationship.” (Emphasis added)
But as Dr. Rebecca Thoman, campaign manager for Doctors for Dignity for Compassion and Choices explained when the Massachusetts Medical Society adopted the same policy in 2017:
A “‘neutral engagement’ position is even better than a simply neutral position. It means if Massachusetts enacts a medical aid-in-dying law, the medical society will offer education and guidance to physicians who want to incorporate medical aid in dying into their practices.” (Emphasis added)
Now, yet another physician-assisted suicide bill is expected to be introduced next year in the Massachusetts legislature.
The AAFP resolution also stated that:
“By supporting the AMA’s opposition to medical aid in dying, some members feel the AAFP is telling them that they are unethical”
“the American Academy of Family Physicians reject(s) the use of the phrase ‘assisted suicide’ or ‘physician-assisted suicide’ in formal statements or documents and direct(s) the AAFP’s American Medical Association (AMA) delegation to promote the same in the AMA House of Delegates.” (Emphasis added)
In 1994, Oregon became the first state to pass a physician-assisted suicide law. This came after the Oregon Medical Association changed its position from opposition to neutrality. 21 years later and after multiple failed attempts, the California state legislature approved a physician-assisted suicide law after the California Medical Association changed its opposition to neutrality.
The unfortunate message sent-and received- was that if doctors themselves don’t strongly oppose physician-assisted suicide laws, why should the public?
Still, it was a surprise that in June 2018, the American Medical Association House of Delegates rejected the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) strong report recommending that the AMA continue its long standing policy opposing physician assisted suicide. Instead the delegates “voted 314-243 to refer the matter back to the trustees for further deliberation”.
With the crucial help of a supportive media, Compassion and Choices started this momentum towards acceptance of physician-assisted suicide and other death choices like VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking), terminal sedation and withdrawal of even spoon-feeding, affecting not just doctors but also nurses and other health care professionals and institutions.
In addition, Compassion and Choices also opposes conscience rights, even stating that the new Federal Conscience and Religious Freedom Division:
“is not about freedom; it’s about denying patient autonomy. Under their proposed rules, providers are encouraged to impose their own religious beliefs on their patients and withhold vital information about treatment options from their patients — up to, and including, the option of medical aid in dying. And your federal tax dollars will be used to protect physicians who make the unconscionable decision to willfully withhold crucial information regarding their care from a patient and abandon them when they are most vulnerable.” (Emphasis added)
However, here are a few ways any of us can help turn around this dire situation:
- Educate yourself on the facts and consider joining others to publicly oppose medically assisted suicide/euthanasia in our courts, legislatures and media outlets.
- Demand that suicide prevention and treatment must be made available to all, not just the young and physically healthy.
- Ask your health care professionals about their position on assisted suicide/euthanasia and support only health care providers who will not assist suicide or refer for it.
- Protect yourself and your loved ones in case of incapacitation with a strong durable power of attorney for health care instead of a “living will”
When the most basic medical ethic of not killing patients or helping them to kill themselves can be discarded in favor of “choice” or “quality of life”, none of us of us can afford to be neutral- or silent-on this life or death issue.