'Doctors are healers, not killers': U.S. Medical Association reaffirms opposition to physician-assisted suicide

Gregory Dugan of Washington D.C. leads a group of protesters against doctor-assisted suicide in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on Jan. 8, 2015.Reuters

The American Medical Association (AMA) reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia during its recent convention.

Dr. David Stevents, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, commended the AMA for sticking to its Code of Medical Ethics.

"I am pleased that the AMA has reaffirmed their strong opposition to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. They continue to state, that 'PAS is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician's professional role' and that 'Requests to physicians for PAS should signal the M.D. that the patient's needs are unmet and further help is needed,'" he said.

According to the AMA's Code of Ethics, allowing a doctor to engage in assisted suicide can do 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," it stated.

Rather than pursuing physician-assisted suicide, doctors should focus on the needs of patients at end of life, it added.

"You are violating the AMA Code of Ethics when you are in the business of prescribing a deadly drug to your patients. Physicians are healers, not killers," said CMDA member Dr. Tom Eppes, a Virginia delegate to the convention and chair of the Integrated Physician Practice Section of the AMA who was in attendance at the Code of Ethics Decision Reference Committee.

He added, "At the same time the AMA reaffirmed their decision to oppose physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, a committee agreed to set up a panel that will investigate what is happening throughout the U.S. in regards to end of life care, get input from the AMA members and report back."

Eppes warned that "a small but extremely vocal group of physicians will to try to convince delegates to approve a neutral stance on legalising PAS."

Wherever a state medical organisation does that, legalisation will soon follow, he said.