American Nurses Association Should Not Support Assisted Suicide

Opinion   |   Marianne Linane   |   Dec 5, 2012   |   8:15PM   |   Washington, DC

The National Association of Pro-life Nurses (NAPN) has responded to ANA’s call for public comments on their proposed document “Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.” 

As an organization dedicated to the preservation of ethical standards in the nursing profession, NAPN finds the document an unnecessary change from the current position.  While the document makes several good statements regarding respect for the patient, any accommodation to the legalization of assisted suicide/euthanasia has no place in the medical profession.  Nurses are healers, not killers, and legalization of the practice will not make it ethical.

The document cites as one resource for their study the pro-euthanasia organization, Compassion in Choices.  The use of organizations as resources which have as their primary focus the legalization of these practices does not lend to the credibility of the document.  There are other sources for the same statistics that could have been cited.

NAPN notes that the current statement of the ANA position on assisted suicide and euthanasia does not require any revision.  Sadly, even that document, which declined to endorse assisted suicide/euthanasia, was not sufficient for the ANA to come to the protection of the life of Terri Schiavo who was not in the process of dying as food and hydration were withdrawn from her in order to assure her death.  In their official statement, the ANA sided with the controversial determination that Ms. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state and as such, the proper decision was reached in the withdrawing of nutrition and hydration based on some unsubstantiated statements she supposedly made regarding the care she would have wanted under such circumstances.  The stated position of the ANA does not translate into life-affirming actions on the part of the ANA.  The absence of activity to protect the life of patients speaks volumes and it would be naïve to think that the new document would produce any different action on the part of the ANA.

The main objection of NAPN to the document is the lack of any real protection for the conscience rights of nurses.  As an organization which has been involved in the defense of exercise of these rights, it is distressing to us that the professional organization which purports to represent nurses has been absent in the defense of these nurses in spite of any platitudes to the contrary.  Yes, limits outlined in the document do exist, but it seems unlikely that the ANA will come to the defense of the nurse who declines to participate when it has not done so in the practice of abortion.  More than once at the state level where conscience protections were being considered for legislation, the state affiliate of the ANA has testified, not on behalf of the nurses, but on behalf of those who would force them to violate their conscience.  Where are the protections for those in the medical profession who would object to participating in the omission of care for Terri Schiavo?   The ANA remained silent when President Obama rescinded the conscience protections which were put in place in the waning months of the Bush administration.  Such actions lead one to question just who the ANA actually represents.



Lastly, it should be noted that the ANA position of support for the highly politicized Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act further clouds the stated position of the ANA.  Support for an act which promotes wholesale practice of abortion and provides for a Patient Advisory Board which would limit treatment is counter to the stated position of the ANA.  The ANA cannot have it both ways.  You cannot make high minded statements to the public and then act in a manner contradictory to these statements and retain your credibility.

We pro-life nurses feel abandoned with regard to the protection of our conscience rights in the workplace.  In spite of the position statement of ANA supporting a nurse’s right to be exempt from participating in procedures which transgress her moral principles, they have been absent in the defense of nurses such as Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo in New York in her dispute with Mt. Sinai Hospital for forcing her to choose between her conscience and her job.  They were in absentia in the defense of the twelve nurses in New Jersey who were told they must participate in abortion or lose their jobs.  In spite of platitudes in their statement, it has not translated into action.  Nurses deserve better representation.

LifeNews Note: Marianne Linane is the Executive Director of the National Association of Pro-life Nurses.  She holds a Masters Degree in Bioethics from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.