Resolutions called for the AMA to support or stay neutral
Efforts to change the American Medical Association’s opposition to assisted suicide failed this week, as two resolutions were voted down by the House of Delegates.
One resolution proposed changing current AMA policy to delete the statement that “Physicians must not perform euthanasia or participate in assisted suicide.” The resolution also proposed changing the term “physician-assisted suicide” to “medical aid-in-dying.”
Another resolution proposed the House of Delegates “adopt a neutral stance on medical aid in dying and respect the autonomy and right of self-determination of patients and physicians in this matter.”
A media statement provided to The College Fix confirmed the resolutions were rejected. The deliberations “reflected an array of deeply held perspectives on physician-assisted suicide,” according to the statement on behalf of AMA President Jesse Ehrenfield.
As a result, “the established guidance in the Code of Medical Ethics regarding the topic will remain unchanged.”
Research will continue into this issue, according to the AMA.
Several medical ethicists told The Fix prior to the vote why the AMA should not endorse assisted suicide.
Wesley Smith, a fellow with the Discovery Institute, said “legalizing assisted suicide gives the state’s imprimatur on some suicides and thereby distinguishes between suicidal people the state considers worth saving via suicide prevention, and those whose lives are so unworthy of being lived that their deaths should be facilitated.”
“By definition, that destroys universal human equality and constitutes abandonment of despairing people who might change their minds if given proper support,” he wrote in an email to The Fix. “It constitutes abandonment, pretending to be compassionate. (Compassion’s root meaning is to ‘suffer with.’ Assisted suicide discards).”
He has written several books about bioethics, assisted suicide, and euthanasia and is regular commentator on the subjects.
He said “medical aid in dying” is just a “euphemism” to “mask the brutality of the act.”
“Assisted suicide, in contrast, is both accurate and descriptive. Assisted means having aid in taking an action,” Smith wrote. “Suicide is to take one’s own life. Assisted suicide does both.”
“Moreover, suicide describes WHAT is done, not WHY,” he said. “If a movement feels the need to hide behind opaque verbiage, there is something wrong with the values of that movement.”
Medical ethicist says assisted suicide is part of ‘throwaway culture’
A professor of medical humanities at Creighton University’s medical school provided similar criticism.
Professor Charles Camosy said via email on Nov. 10 that “in some ways, the fact that the AMA has been trying this long and not changed the good language they’ve had until this point reveals a stubbornness of their will not to sell out to a morally incoherent definition of medicine.”
He has written several books about bioethics and human dignity and is also a moral theologian.
“If healers can be killers, then the very idea that medicine is ‘about something’ at all becomes ridiculous,” he said.
“Catholic understandings of medicine will not change, at least if they are to remain Catholic,” the social commentator and theologian wrote. “Our Lord, the Great Physician, calls us to healing, suffering with, nonviolence, and lifting up the value of others–even and perhaps especially when they cannot see their own value.”
Professor Camosy told The Fix “the legalization of physician–assisted killing is bad for so many reasons, but it is bad in particular because it goes against our very good cultural impulse to stop people with suicidal ideation and save them from an objectively bad impulse to kill themselves.”
“Pope Francis emphasizes how throwaway culture uses language that makes vulnerable people easier to discard, and this is a classic example,” Professor Camosy told The Fix.
State support for assisted suicide is a problem in other countries too, Camosy said.
“This March, Canada will apparently offer so-called ‘medical aid in dying’ to people who are explicitly not dying but only disabled,” he said. The new policy draws “apt comparisons to the medical practices under Nazi Germany with regard to those the powerful in the culture have deemed not worthy of life.”
“The ‘right’ to die almost always becomes the duty to die, especially if one is vulnerable and perceived as being a burden on others, and language like ‘medical aid in dying’ hides these and other pernicious facts.”
IMAGE: Kraken Images/Shutterstock