AMA vote causes worry in fight against assisted suicide

By Jennifer Popik, J.D., NRLC Director of Federal Legislation

In a disappointing vote Monday at its annual meeting, the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to continue to review, not maintain, its long-standing opposition to physician-assisted suicide.

After two years of hard and detailed work examining the dangerous trends and effects of legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) issued a report to the full AMA recommending the organization maintain their opposition position to assisted suicide.

According to Lisa Schencker at the Chicago Tribune,

The AMA’s House of Delegates, however, narrowly voted Monday at the group’s annual meeting in Chicago not to accept that report, instead sending it back to the committee for further review. About 56 percent of the delegates voted for further review.

By ignoring the CEJA’s recommendations and voting for “further study,” the House of Delegates tragically missed an opportunity to protect vulnerable patients.

For now, the AMA position in opposition to assisted suicide stands. However, this vote has almost certainly teed up another vote on this at the next annual meeting in June of 2019.

Prior to the vote, a piece titled “Accepting physician-assisted suicide is a slippery slope. The American Medical Association believes it is wrong for doctors to kill. Let’s stick by that belief” appeared in USA Today. Joseph E. Marine, a member of the AMA and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, laid out the dangers involved with assisted suicide laws.

They include no requirement for psychiatric evaluation, for witnesses to the consumption of the lethal overdose, no medical examiner inquests, no independent safety monitoring board and no mandatory routine audits of records and documentation. There is no requirement that the prescribing physician have a meaningful long-term patient-physician relationship with the patient seeking assisted suicide and physicians are immunized from ordinary negligence.

In other words, these laws are simple too dangerous and they cannot be allowed to spread any further!

We will continue to work to fight back these state efforts to legalize assisted suicide and continue to work with those in the medical community to keep the tide from changing.