Physician-assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” That is the position the AMA still holds despite the rather dramatic pleas from those seeking a position of “engaged neutrality” – a clever but meaningless phrase. Compassion and Choices wrote the playbook for physicians to flip their societies’ positions.
“This resource is designed to provide step-by-step information on engaging your state, local or specialty medical association toward supporting, or taking a position of neutrality, in the policy discussion over medical aid in dying” (emphasis added). We cannot be neutral towards PAS; to be silent is to be permissive.
Two MedPage Today articles (1 and 2) gave insights to the discussion.
I’ve added emphasis and commentary to other quotes reported in the news.
Katalin Roth is a geriatrician in Washington D.C. “It was my profound honor to help Mary have the end-of-life care she wanted,” Roth continued, but the AMA’s position causes her “significant moral distress.” But killing patients who are not yet suffering and might die in 6 months does not cause her significant moral distress?
John Cullen, from Alaska, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), flipped his organization to a position of engaged neutrality. He asked, “If medical aid in dying is incompatible with physicians’ role as healer, how do we remain engaged and ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place?” He isn’t talking about patients, though; the AAFP will “support laws that protect physicians from criminal prosecution for assisting terminally ill patients in ending their lives.”
Opposing PAS altogether is the best safeguard for ALL patients to protect the vulnerable from mistake, abuse, and coercion–and physicians need not fear prosecution.
Roger Kligler helped flipped the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) to engaged neutrality and is suing the state for the right to kill himself. He thinks a neutral position is needed to “respect ethical physicians on both sides.” He was told he had 6 months to live before beginning treatment; now he is no longer considered terminal.
Some even made histrionic claims that it would cause legal or licensing problems for them, which led Sergio Seoane to respond, “There has never been a single physician prosecuted in the United States, where these laws exist allowing [PAS], with the AMA’s current ethical policies.“
Vernon Zurick from Colorado supported the CEJA report and was wary of the “very slippery slope” that would follow any endorsement of even a neutral policy around PAS. Once legalized in Colorado, advocates pressured hospitals, “many of whom had ethical issues,” to carry out PAS. He was also concerned that health systems worried about reining in costs could influence the practice of PAS and could hurt the patient-physician relationship. “Neutrality is permissibility.“
The AAFP, as well as the MMS, have turned their backs on the vulnerable. The AMA is standing firmly against PAS to protect all patients and the medical profession itself, and not just looking to protect doctors from prosecution who help their patients kill themselves.
HOW TO FLIP A MEDICAL SOCIETY
You send out a survey to your membership to which a handful of PAS activists will respond but the vast majority of the membership will ignore and you then declare, as Dr. Kligler does, that you have a 2:1 consensus! Oh, and don’t tell the public that 25% of doctors aren’t even members, so they were never asked about PAS.
- Only 6.3% of MMS members voted to take a stance in support of PAS or of engaged neutrality