This is good news. The American Medical Association has voted 65-35 to continue treating the terminally ill, rather than to support assisted suicide.
“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,” states AMA policy. “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.”
I’ve long wondered how physician-assisted suicide is permissible under the Hippocratic Oath of ethics taken by doctors to do no harm. The Council on Ethical & Judicial Affairs, which functions to maintain, update, and promote adherence to the AMA Code of Ethics agrees: the Council has concluded twice in the past year that the practice falls outside of the scope of a doctor’s duties.
I think there can be a place for physician-assisted suicide in very limited circumstances – for instance, if someone is on hospice and literally has days left to go. In general, however, I disagree with the practice. Medical science advances so quickly that what is terminal and unbearable today might have been treatment options in just a few months. Even without new treatments, medical prognoses are often outlived – even Brittany Maynard, the woman with terminal brain cancer who was the poster child for physician-assisted suicide back in 2014, had outlived her six-month prognosis when she chose to end her life.
Often, I think how well a person does with a terminal illness depends on their attitude and determination to beat the disease. Cancer patients are sometimes encouraged to seek a forward-looking hobby that gives them something to look forward to. I think the option to kill yourself to escape the suffering gives people an incentive NOT to fight for their lives.
Physician-assisted suicide shows a devaluing of the dignity of human life. I’m glad to see the AMA standing on the side of life.