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American Academy of Family Physicians Affirm Opposition to PAS

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Some great news this week: the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Congress of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to oppose a resolution that would have changed AAFP’s official position on physician-assisted suicide from opposition to neutrality. Impressively, more than 2/3 of the members voted to oppose the resolution.

Their continued opposition to PAS is notable. AAFP is the only medical society (along with their state chapters) that is solely devoted to primary care. Unlike other medical societies whose members are largely specialists – e.g. orthopedists, psychiatrists, neurologists, dermatologists, anesthesiologists – the AAFP’s members are all family physicians. That is critical because family physicians have a unique and special relationship with their patients, one that focuses on regular, personal, integrated care of the whole person. This means that family physicians have a unique understanding of their patients, their aliments, and the best treatment options. 

Family physicians are also  uniquely qualified to understand some of the most troubling provisions of physician-assisted suicide legislation:

  • Accurately predicting a six-month terminal diagnosis is next to impossible – even doctors admit that it is simply an educated guess.
  • No doctor, nurse, family member or independent witness is required to be present when the lethal dose is taken.
  • Patients will pick up their lethal prescriptions at their local pharmacies, with no control or tracking of the lethal drug once it leaves the shelves – even if it is ultimately not used by the patient.
  • There is no requirement that patients receive a psychological evaluation before doctors can authorize physician-assisted suicide. A screening from a doctor untrained in mental health is not sufficient.

AAFP’s vote and strong opposition to physician-assisted suicide reaffirms that the medical community has strong concerns with this dangerous legislation, and their leadership and focus on patient protections should be applauded.   

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