Will the AMA Heed Its Own Ethics Council, Regarding Assisted Suicide?

Dr Pies is Editor in Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric Times, and a Professor in the psychiatry departments of SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

It seemed like a major statement on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) by the American Medical Association, and several media websites trumpeted the story in just such terms; for example, “The AMA Continues to Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide” and “AMA Rebuffs Advocates of Physician-Assisted Suicide.”1,2

However, more cautious observers quickly pointed out that the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) Report 5-A-18 merely put forward the recommendation of the Council3 and that “…the AMA House of Delegates has not yet taken action on this report [which]…does not represent adopted policy of the AMA at this time” (E.J. Crigger, PhD, American Medical Association, personal communication, May 8, 2018). Indeed, it is far from clear how the delegates will actually vote this June. That said, it will be hard, in my view, for the delegates to repudiate the very clear conclusions of the CEJA report. First, though, a bit of background.

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