Doctors’ lobby refuses to maintain opposition to assisted suicide

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After receiving a recommendation from the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs that it continue to oppose assisted suicide, a majority of delegates from the American Medical Association voted against the advice on Monday, indicating that the group may reconsider its longstanding opposition to the practice.

The Oregon delegation requested that the AMA pivot to a neutral position regarding whether doctors can ethically prescribe lethal medication to a patient diagnosed as terminally ill, prompting a two year study of the issue by the council.

The council’s final report recommended that the AMA maintain its current position that “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.The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs therefore recommends that the Code of Medical Ethics not be amended.”

During a meeting in Chicago, delegates from the AMA voted against the council’s recommendation and requested that the council study the issue further. The decision suggested that the AMA might be paving a path leading to the withdrawal of their opposition to assisted suicide, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

Dr. Brian Callister, former president of the Nevada Medical Association who opposes the legalization of assisted suicide, contended that the outcome of the vote did more to appease dissenting physicians than it did to advocate for patients’ rights. Callister also characterized the vote as “a missed opportunity” to “show courage in standing up for what is right for our patients and our colleagues.

“I’m afraid they are more concerned about losing more members than they are about our doing what they know is the right thing, but the bottom line is that the AMA policy opposing physician-assisted suicide remains intact,” Callister said. “We need to ensure that the members of the House of Delegates take the time to learn more about the profound negative effects PAS has on our citizens and our society, and they need to stop fearing the repercussions of taking a stand on what they worry is a ‘controversial issue.'”

Dr. David Grube, national medical director at Compassion and Choices, has prescribed numerous patientsin Oregon lethal drugs to end their lives. Grube supported the AMA’s vote.

“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,” Grube said. “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.”

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