April 8, 2019–Bristol, Tennessee–A draft statement by the American Nurses Association [ANA] regarding a nurse’s role when a patient requests physician-assisted suicide corrupts the role of a nurse. The nursing profession has a historical record of assisting patients with comfort, increasing and/or sustaining quality of life, seeing life’s intrinsic value and providing holistic family support, not aiding in the death of their patients.
“We do not feel that any nurse has an ethical obligation to assist a patient with killing themselves, and we condemn the shift in verbiage from physician-assisted suicide to ‘aid in dying,’” states Sara Hellwege, chair of the Coalition of Christian Nurse Practitioners (CCNP). “While the American Nursing Association (ANA) states that ‘nurses are prohibited from administering AID,’ it seems they are, in fact, advocating for the action to be included within the nursing scope of practice.”
A patient’s voluntary request for physician-assisted suicide does not make it ethical or permissible. The idea of a nurse acting as an accomplice by encouraging the transfer of a lethal dose of medication is morally repugnant to the foundational principles of nursing and those who value the innate dignity of human beings.
“We contend that it is our responsibility as professionals to be frank with patients about behaviors that could cause self-harm, and we have a fiduciary duty to them,” Hellwege said.
“We also must consider what may occur with vulnerable patients’ compounding socio-economic factors to which this may be a dangerous, persuasive agenda for those who may lack resources. These policies directly target kind-hearted citizens who may not want to financially burden their families, creating a duty to die,” Hellwege continued.
Instead of advocating for such a dangerous policy statement shift by the ANA, CCNP recommends the following:
- Train more palliative care physicians and advanced practice nurses
- Encourage better identification and treatment of depression
- Promote perinatal and adult hospice
- Mobilize communities to provide emotional and relational end-of-life support to struggling patients and families
“We challenge our legislative bodies to modify laws to allow autonomous practice by certified palliative care NPs working to prescribe adequate pain control at the end of life-removing barriers of physician oversight which cause an undue burden on patients and the healthcare system. We must highlight that just because something is legal, does not make the action morally correct,” Hellwege continued.
CCNP challenges the ANA to not adopt this policy, as it requires nurses to compromise their integrity by going against their religious and moral convictions, inhibiting their religious liberty and political freedoms, if they were to participate in facilitating the act by acquiring medication, arranging referral to a supportive provider or speaking of Physician-Assisted Suicide in a positive light.
The Coalition of Christian Nurse Practitioners is a Specialty Selection of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.