For more than a year, rumors have circulated that the American Medical Association is about to change its long-held position of opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide. Whether or not that is true, only time will tell.
A Vermont physician wrote the following eloquent letter to the AMA, expressing her vehement opposition to any softening of its opposition. It is a perfect explanation of why, as the current position of the AMA states, “…these practices (assisted suicide and euthanasia) are fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.”
Here, in italics, is the letter. Thank you, Carol Salazar M.D. Anyone may also write the AMA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Elliot Crigger
I understand that you are the person to send comments to regarding the AMA’s upcoming consideration of withdrawing the organization’s opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide.
I am a practicing Primary Care Internist in Vermont, where sadly PAS has been legalized. I walk with people through the end of life every day. I also have a teenage daughter.
In a world where we have seen violence, hopelessness, suicide ( especially in teens ) and addiction skyrocket, we , as physicians , will be sending the wrong message to our patients and our children who will inherit the world we leave them. What message are we sending them?
We will be telling them that autonomy trumps all… that because I want to control how I leave this world, I have the right to do whatever I want
… that there is no absolute truth…
that human life does not matter.
That suffering should be wiped out .
Unfortunately suffering is a part of the human condition as can be seen in the literature of even ancient times . We as physicians are tasked to alleviate suffering. We cannot always cure , but we can always comfort . We should be pouring our efforts into end of life care both at home and in Hospice institutions .
The slippery slope is real and I fear we have started our descent . We have been there before, even in our own country. If it is ok to ask a physician to help me kill myself , it is a very short slide to extending it to the disabled and even the depressed. The papers are FULL of stories of teen suicides and drug overdoses. It is our task to show them that we are willing to walk with them in their suffering and not give up on them.
I believe every physician should read “”The Nazi Doctors” by Dr. Ray Lifton. Proponents of PAS do not like it when I bring this comparison up. It is very painful and difficult to read because it shows how killing was medicalized and therefore came to be accepted by so many everyday physicians.
The AMA is proposing to support the medicalization of suicide… it is to be one of the “treatments” we are to offer as end of life care.
It is a huge mistake to withdraw the opposition to PAS. I hope that we as physicians have learned from the past and will stand firm for what is right.
Carol Salazar MD