By Nancy Valko
In March, I wrote a blog “Is the American Nurses Association Ready to Drop Opposition to Assisted Suicide?” about the ANA draft position paper changing its stance from opposition to assisted suicide to “The Nurse’s Role When a Patient Requests Aid in Dying.” “Aid in Dying” is the ANA’s new term for assisted suicide. I included a link for public comments on this change that gave a deadline of April 8, 2019.
Although the ANA claims that it ‘is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses’, less than ten percent of the nation’s nurses are members of the ANA or other professional organizations” and that number is declining.
I belonged to the ANA decades ago but left when I saw the organization take radical positions without even informing us. Now, no nurse I know belongs-unless he or she is in politics, academia or administration.
Even though I regularly get medical and nursing news updates along with constant ads from the ANA, I never see ANA’s proposed new position changes on hot button issues like VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking to hasten death) and assisted suicide until alerted by people in my network. Unfortunately, although some of us wrote public comments opposing nursing involvement in VSED, the ANA approved the change in 2017
This time, the ANA’s draft position on assisted suicide led to an outpouring of criticisms and pleas not to approve the change.
SOME RESPONSES TO THE ANA DRAFT RECOMMENDATIONS
The Catholic Medical Association issued a statement opposing the ANA’s draft position stating:
“These guidelines compromise not only the patient’s life, but also the conscience rights of nurses everywhere,” said Dr. John Schirger, President of the CMA.”
“A nurse or any health care provider should never abandon a patient or refuse comfort and care to a patient. But AID is not care and is the ultimate abandonment of a patient. Forcing the nurse to facilitate AID makes the nurse complicit in such abandonment,” said Dr. Marie Hilliard, Co-Chair of the CMA’s Ethics Committee.”
The National Association of Catholic Nurses issued their comments on the ANA’s draft such as:
“All the legal system can do is decriminalize AID so that nurses and physicians are not prosecuted for killing patients or helping them to kill themselves. AID is the antithesis of social justice.”
“Nursing is a moral endeavor and much is at stake when nurses breach the moral obligation to first do no harm. Harm is precisely what support of AID does. It harms the patient who is killed, the nurse who must make themselves indifferent to the patient’s suffering and convince themselves that killing is okay, the professional relationship that is built on trust that the nurse will not harm the patient, and society that will come to view nurses as potential accomplices in killing rather than as true healers and providers of authentic compassionate care. As Florence Nightingale is quoted to have said, “The very first requirement in a hospital, is that it should do the sick no harm.”
The National Association of Pro-life Nurses (NAPN) responded in their comments that:
“Social and legislative shifts” do not make a previously immoral act moral. ”
“Aid in dying IS euthanasia. It is the deliberate taking of a life whether it is requested by the patient or not.”
Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism asked, “Now Will Nurses Only Prevent Some Suicides?” and wrote:
“I hope the membership of the ANA will oppose their leaders’ attempt to accommodate the culture of death. If nurses become “non-judgmental” — e.g., indifferent — to some suicides, the consequent failure to request specialized preventative interventions could become the precipitating omission that sends some suicidal patients into the abyss.”
And over 1,000 people signed an online petition opposing the ANA draft position by the April 8, 2019 deadline.
A DIRE WARNING FROM CANADA
The Canadian Catholic Nurses joined the National Association of Catholic Nurse in opposing the ANA’s draft position and gave a chilling look at what may be our future if legalized assisted suicide is not stopped:
“Our association formed in 2018 primarily in response to Canadian nurses ‘moral distress regarding the nation-wide legalization of medically induced death. Professional associations and licensing bodies across Canada endorsed the legal changes, requiring conscientious objectors to participate in “Medical Assistance in Dying” by “effective referral” to facilitate access at the patient’s request. Faith-based health care facilities are pressured to participate. Nurse practitioners are trained and qualified to prescribe and administer lethal doses of medication to patients that they or others deem eligible for euthanasia.”
Social justice demands that nurses advocate for the protection of life until natural death, not for increased access to induced death. The Canadian experience with assisted suicide and euthanasia provides evidence for your continued resistance to the practice.
Unlike Oregon, Canada has not experienced a growth in palliative care along with the rapid expansion of induced death. Instead, we experience ongoing demands for access to lethal injections for new categories of patients, including “mature minors;” those who write advanced directives; and those whose mental illness is the sole condition underlying their request. We urge the ANA to maintain its courageous opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.” (All emphasis added)
Legalized assisted suicide is more than a legal, medical or nursing problem. It is a corrupting influence on our society that will destroy the essential protections of truly ethical healthcare for us all.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Nancy’s blog and is reposted with permission.