AMA Votes to Retain Longstanding Opposition to Assisted Suicide

National   Steven Ertelt   Jun 10, 2019   |   5:38PM    Washington, DC

Despite a concerted effort by euthanasia advocates, the American Medical Association has voted to retain its long-standing opposition to assisted suicide.

The AMA affirmed CEJA 2, the report which recommended that the AMA retain its opposition to assisted suicide. The vote was 65-35, a huge margin of victory for doctors who want the AMA to continue treating patient, not killing them.

The battle over the AMA vote took place over the course of several years worth of interim and annual meetings. But physicians, medical students, interns and residents from across the country spoke up in favor of the AMA”s anti-assisted suicide position.

Some of them spoke at a Reference Committee meeting yesterday, which overwhelmingly recommended that the House of Delegates affirm CEJA 2. At the meeting, Dr. Dan Sulmasy debated the lead doctor from the pro-euthanasia group Compassion and Choices. Physician members of Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs held the line last year and this year despite enormous pressure to promote euthanizing patients.

The vote is notable because the AMA is one of the largest medial organizations in the country, and medical societies are influential when it comes to legislators making policy decisions and in shaping public opinion.

Matt Vallière, the director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, told LifeNews he was pleased with the vote.

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“We applaud the American Medical Association for maintaining their longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide. In doing so, the AMA sides with patients and people with disabilities who would be at risk for deadly harm through mistakes, coercion, and abuse, all the while carefully guarding the trust upon which the patient-physician relationship is based,” he said.

Vallière added: “Patients deserve care and protection, not a prescription for death. We trust that this decision will encourage states considering legislation to continue to reject 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.

In the past year, CEJA has deliberated twice and concluded both times that the current AMA policy on assisted suicide should be maintained.

In May 2018, CEJA released its report on assisted suicide and concluded:

After careful consideration, CEJA concludes that in its current form the Code offers guidance to support physicians and the patients they serve in making well-considered, mutually respectful decisions about legally available options for care at the end of life in the intimacy of a patient-physician relationship. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs therefore recommends that the Code of Medical Ethics not be amended.

At the AMA annual convention in June 2018, the delegates voted to send the assisted suicide report back to CEJA for further study. In October 2018, after considerable discussion, CEJA released a new report on assisted suicide. CEJA once again recommended that the AMA maintain its opposition to assisted suicide. The report concluded:

After careful consideration, CEJA concludes that in existing opinions on physician-assisted suicide and the exercise of conscience, the Code offers guidance to support physicians and the patients they serve in making well-considered, mutually respectful decisions about legally available options for care at the end of life in the intimacy of a patient-physician relationship. 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.

Also recently, the World Medical Association also maintained its opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.