Family Physicians Association Breaks Ranks, No Longer Opposed To Assisted Suicide

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Grace Carr Reporter
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The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) announced Tuesday that it no longer opposes physician-assisted suicide, instead taking a neutral position on the matter.

AAFP’s adoption of “engaged neutrality” regarding physician-assisted suicide signals a marked split from the American Medical Association (AMA). 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 AMA’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 AMA’s 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 AMA.

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 (PRAF) executive director Matt Valliere said in a Wednesday statement. PRAF seeks to “protect patients’ civil rights and oppose efforts to make suicide a legal medical treatment option.” (RELATED: Californians Have Only Weeks To Decide If They’ll Reinstate The Right To Die)

“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 (MMS) 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.  (RELATED: Massachusetts Might Legalize Assisted Suicide, And It Could Turn America Into The Netherlands)

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.

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