15 Mar 2013
AMA position on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide
Medical practitioners should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life (this does not include the discontinuation of futile treatment). Some patients may fear that when they lose decision-making capacity, their goals and values in relation to their end of life care will be unknown or even disregarded by their families and/or the health care team since the patient can no longer actively participate in their own health care decisions. As such, this fear may lead some patients to request assisted dying before they lose decision-making capacity. For most patients in the terminal stage of illness, pain and suffering can be alleviated by therapeutic and comfort care; however, we fully acknowledge that there are still currently instances where the satisfactory relief of suffering cannot be achieved.
We must, therefore, ensure that all patients have access to appropriate palliative care and advocate that greater research must go into palliative care so that no patient endures such suffering. No one should feel that their only option for satisfactory relief of pain and suffering is to end their own life.
In consultation with the patient (or their advocate), doctors apply the most appropriate therapeutic means to treat their patients. Where death is inevitable and when treatment that might prolong life will not offer reasonable hope of benefit or will impose an unacceptable burden on the patient, death should be allowed to occur with dignity and comfort. For doctors, this means using their skills to care for the patient by making them as comfortable as possible, free from unnecessary suffering. It does not mean deliberately taking the life of the patient.
Published: 15 Mar 2013