Family Physicians Association Breaks Ranks, No Longer Opposes Assisted Suicide

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The American Academy of Family Physicians announced Tuesday that it no longer opposes physician-assisted suicide, instead taking a neutral perspective on the matter.

AAFP’s adoption of “engaged neutrality” regarding physician-assisted suicide signals a marked splinter from the American Medical Association. AAFP President Michael Munger announced the change. The committee also recommended the procedure be referred to as “medical aid in dying” as opposed to physician-assisted suicide.

“Through our ongoing and continuous relationship with our patients, family physicians are well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care, and we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients,” Munger said in a statement, according to PR Newswire.

CaliforniaNew MexicoNew York, and Washington Academy of Family Physicians introduced the measure that AAFP delegates approved Tuesday. Any resolution departing from the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics requires a two-thirds vote by the Congress of Delegates.

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks,” according to the Code of Ethics. “Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life.”

Rather than help patients with suicide, physicians should support terminally ill patients, respect their autonomy, communicate, and provide pain control and comfort care if the patient so chooses, according to the American Medical Association.

AAFP’s resolution is “dangerous and irresponsible [and] … puts the most vulnerable at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, abuse, and coercion,” Patients Rights Action Fund Executive Director Matt Valliere said in a Wednesday statement. The Patients Rights Action Fund seeks to “protect patients’ civil rights and oppose efforts to make suicide a legal medical treatment option.”

“Changing our position to engaged neutrality shows that our members can respectfully disagree about medical aid in dying, but still agree about our role in supporting our patients no matter what care they choose at the end of life,” said Washington Academy of Family Physicians member Julia Sokoloff, who introduced the resolution, PR Newswire reported.

The Massachusetts Medical Society also voted to repeal its policy regarding assisted suicide and euthanasia in December, moving from its well-established opposition to “neutral engagement” on the practice.

California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, and Washington permit physician-assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide in the Netherlands is legal for anyone who suffers from physical or mental illness and has an advanced directive or has received parental consent if younger than 16.

AAFP did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.

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