State should not let doctors become suicide enablers


Earlier this year, the American Medical Association voted to uphold its longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide. The AMA says 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.”

This is, in fact, the historical position of medicine going back at least to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates – doctors have always held that they should heal their patients and help alleviate their suffering; but it crosses an ethical line to help eliminate the person who suffers.

The AMA’s ethics council studied the issue for three years and recommended that their opposition be maintained (as well as the language of assisted suicide instead of its euphemisms such as “aid-in-dying”). The AMA voted to accept this recommendation by a margin of greater than 70%…

Supposing that one can make a case for legalizing assisted suicide, there is no special reason to involve doctors. Patients turn to doctors for healing and care, which would be counteracted if doctors also offer lethal drugs. Doctors are not trained to bring about a person’s death. Indeed, the AMA’s ethical code also prohibits physician participation in legally authorized executions.

But aren’t doctors supposed to alleviate pain? Yes, they are; and they do such an excellent job that few people who use assisted suicide in states that have legalized it say that they are motivated by concern about inadequate pain control, mentioning instead fears of being a burden and losing autonomy. Doctors can address these fears as well without assisted death.

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