October 1, 2022

AMA’s stand on assisted suicide weakens after annual meeting

Possibility of a push for “neutrality”

The American Medical Association’s official position on assisted suicide is to oppose it as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs recently recommended that this be maintained.

However, delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago this week voted by a margin of 56% to 44% to continue studying the issue. 

So the AMA’s official position remains unchanged for the moment, but a change is in the air. Supporters of assisted suicide will probably push for a stance of neutrality.

“The (ethics panel’s) work and resulting report have added clarity to the issue and emphasized that physicians from all perspectives share a common commitment to the core values of care, compassion, respect, and dignity for their patients,” former AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman said in a statement.

“Many of the AMA’s constituent societies favor neutrality in order to respect and protect doctors and patients whether they decide to participate in this medical practice or not,” commented Dr David Grube, who wrote 30 prescriptions for medical aid in dying in Oregon between 1998 and 2012 and currently is the national medical director for Compassion & Choices, the leading right-to-die lobby group in the US. “I’m heartened that the AMA House of Delegates is open to continuing to study and learn about this issue when there is no clear consensus among AMA members.”

But the executive director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund wasn’t impressed. “(It’s) a lost opportunity and a failure to stand against a policy that has grave consequences for everyone, but especially persons living with illness, disabilities, or socioeconomic disadvantage. Assisted suicide is not medical care,” Matt Vallière told the Washington Post.

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