Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide - Archive

Doctors Affirm the Profession’s Rejection of Prescribed Death (2013)

Physicians, nationally and internationally, are reaffirming their individual and collective opposition to both euthanasia and assisted suicide


A recent survey of New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) readers on the issue of doctor-prescribed suicide elicited responses from 74 countries (2356 votes) and 49 U.S. states (1712 votes). The survey’s responses, mostly from doctors, indicated that “65% of the readers thought that physician-assisted suicide should not be permitted; the rate among U.S. voters was similar, with 67% voting against physician-assisted suicide.”

The country with the largest number of votes (37) for the death practice was Mexico.

In the U.S., 18 out of the 49 states had a majority of votes in favor of prescribed suicide, but Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—states that have formally legalized the practice—were not among them.

A large number of the comments by survey responders on both sides of the issue emphasized the importance of good palliative care to help terminally ill patients manage their symptoms. [Colbert et al., “Physician-Assisted Suicide—Polling Results,” NEJM, 9/12/13]

World Medical Association
Earlier this year, the World Medical Association (WMA) formally reaffirmed its longstanding opposition to both euthanasia and assisted suicide:

“Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. This does not prevent the physician from respecting the desire of a patient to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness.

“Physician-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically. However, the right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient and the physician does not act unethically even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient.”

At its 194th Council Session, held in April 2013 in Bali, Indonesia, the WMA passed its “Resolution on Euthanasia,” which simply states:

“The World Medical Association reaffirms its strong belief that euthanasia is in conflict with basic ethical principle of medical practice, and the World Medical Association strongly encourages all National Medical Associations and physicians to refrain from participating in euthanasia, even if national law allows it or decriminalizes it under certain conditions.” [WMA, 4/13]

National medical associations
Most major national and international medical associations in countries where prescribed-death practices are being considered for legalization already have strong opposition policies in place.

In the U.S., for example, the American Medical Association (AMA) has consistently maintained its policy: “Our AMA strongly opposes any bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, as these practices are fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.” [Policy H-270.965] …
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