April 24, 2024

Medical students’ perspectives on euthanasia

Students are concerned about the impact of euthanasia on the medical landscape.

What do medical students think about euthanasia? A new article in the journal Chest discusses some of the concerns held by the next generation of US medical professionals.  The authors of the paper, students from several of the leading medical schools in the country, express grave concerns about the normalisation of euthanasia in end-of-life care.

Commenting on new legislation introduced in US states such as Colorado, the authors remark:

The sum of these new laws and rulings strongly conveys the impression that once a person is eligible for hospice, his or her life may no longer have worth, and a “healthy” and “reasonable” thing to do is to request to end one’s own life. We reject this proposed shift of the true purpose of medicine, and we reject the pressure to legitimize this shift through the involvement of medical professionals in an act fundamentally antithetical to our core ethical principles.

Doctor-patient trust, the authors assert, is founded upon the notion that doctors “will commit to doing their best to heal and care for patients and will not intentionally kill those entrusted to their care”. The students fear that PAS/E violates the fundamental bond of trust.

Indeed, the authors call upon doctors to return to the original meaning of euthanasia:

“In its first studies in the 19th century, “euthanasia” was originally defined as focusing on improving patients' quality of life and easing the process at the end of life, but never at the expense of promoting practices which could hasten a patient's death. We strongly implore our present and future colleagues to return to this original definition.”

The American Medical Student Association currently has a position of conditional support for physician aid in dying.

Medical students’ perspectives on euthanasia
Xavier Symons
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