Defying the advice of its own ethics committee to continue calling assisted suicide what it really is and to continue opposing it, the full AMA House of Delegates, with a 56% majority, today asked the ethics committee to reconsider its decision, made after two years of study. The ethics committee will issue another report before the 2019 meeting of the House of Delegates.
The AMA’s long time position on assisted suicide has been that it is fundamentally incompatible with the duty of physicians to heal, not harm (https://ama.com.au/system/tdf/documents/AMA%20Position%20Statement%20on%20Euthanasia%20and%20Physician%20Assisted%20Suicide%202016.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=45402). The AMA’s press release emphasizes that this position of opposition remains unchanged (https://www.ama-assn.org/physicians-continue-examination-physician-assisted-suicide).
It also, however, notes the diversity of views among its members and states that these are all morally admirable. The mandate for continued review, especially by such a definitive percentage, means that there is a real possibility that next year’s meeting could change the name “assisted suicide” to “aid in dying” and take a position of neutrality towards it. In the worst scenario, the AMA could give full approval to the practice, but, in True Dignity’s humble opinion, today’s statement regarding diversity of opinion is more likely to foreshadow a position in which the decision to participate in AS is left to the conscience of individual physicians.
The AMA’s opposition has been an important force in slowing the spread of AS. It is ironic that this news comes during a week that has seen two high profile suicide deaths and a report showing a staggeringly large increase in the rate of suicides in 49 states.
Today’s decision is very bad news.