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No Change to AMA’s PAS Opposition…for Now

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This past week at an Interim Meeting, the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates debated the Association’s official position on physician assisted suicide (PAS). The AMA has long upheld its opposition to PAS, but in June of this year, Delegates voted to reject the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) thoughtful recommendation to maintain its opposition.

In response to the testimony that was given in June, the CEJA revised its report and integrated what they called “crucial material” into its recommendations. James “Jim” Sabin, MD, Chair of the CEJA, summarized the AMA’s current position at last week’s meeting:

“We believe that the code as it exists is excellent moral guidance to our profession.”

Dozens of physicians from both sides of the debate delivered passionate speech’s to the House of Delegates. Some AMA Delegates urged the Association to take a neutral stance on PAS. Dr. Kevin Donovan, MD, Director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and a professor at Georgetown University, spoke on behalf of himself and the Center urging the AMA not to declare itself indifferent to suicide:

“If you don’t equate neutrality with indifference, you may be right … [but] silence gives assent. So, to not speak against this is indirectly an endorsement.”

Ultimately, the Delegates voted to refer the CEJA report back to the Committee for further study. While the AMA has not made any final decisions regarding their position, this meeting, in combination with the vote in June, shows a clear shift in opinion among active delegates at the meeting. The delegates will likely meet again in June of 2019 to vote on the issue. Until then, it’s critical to continue our efforts to raise awareness surrounding the dangers of PAS.

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