This month, the AMA House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a strong report from AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs reaffirming current AMA policy on physician-assisted suicide stating that:
“permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately 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. Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life.”
This happened despite the enormous pressure from assisted suicide supporters and groups like Compassion and Choices as well as some other professional associations to change its’ long standing opposition to physician-assisted suicide to “neutrality”.
But this is not just about doctors.
Earlier this year the American Nurses Association (ANA) wrote a draft position paper about also dropping its longstanding opposition to assisted suicide. The ANA draft paper also proposed changing the term “assisted suicide” to ““aid in dying”, requiring that nurses to be “non-judgmental when discussing end of life options with patients”, and that nurses who object to assisted suicide are still “obliged to provide for patient safety, to avoid patient abandonment, and to withdraw only when assured that nursing care is available to the patient.” (Emphasis added)
In other words, nurses must abandon their vital role in detecting and preventing suicide for some of their patients when the issue is assisted suicide. This kind of discrimination is not only lethal to the patient but also discourages dedicated, ethical people from entering or remaining in the healthcare professions. The National Association of Pro-life Nurses strongly opposed the proposal due to conscience concerns raised by it. The objections can be found on the NAPN website, www.nursesforlife.org. No formal position has yet been taken.
Although most doctors and nurses are not members of the ANA or AMA, if such organizations capitulate to the pro-assisted suicide groups, legalized assisted suicide throughout the US may be inevitable.
Hopefully, the ANA will follow the AMA example of continued opposition to assisted suicide and begin to restore the public’s trust that we will never kill our patients or help them kill themselves.
Marianne Linane RN, MS, MA, National Association of Pro-Life Nurses Executive Director
📞 (202) 556-1240