American College of Physicians still responds negatively to assisted suicide

Publié le 9 Oct, 2017

On 19 September 2017, the ACP [1] clearly reiterated “its opposition to any participation in assisted suicide by doctors“.


 The association believes “that assisted suicide harms the trusting relationship between doctors and their patients” and “damages the vocation of nursing staff/carers“. It also points out that, “just like medicine cannot stop death, medicine cannot alleviate all forms of human suffering and any attempt to do so is tantamount to medical malpractice“.


 It emphasises the importance of the “clarity of language” because terms such as “assisted dying, medically assisted dying, death assisted by a physician and accelerated death” cloud the “ethical issues at stake and hamper discussion“. It also points out that the difference between “refusing to prolong life by medical means and an act that leads to death” is the fact that patients have the right “to refuse treatment including life-saving treatment“: “they then die from natural causes“. The association states that “all patients are entitled to pain relief and medication to relieve disease-related symptoms in the last moments of life“.


 Its position can be summed up in a few words: “to support patients dying from natural causes but not to cause death“.


 Last but not least, it stresses the need to develop palliative care because, during end of life interviews, “90% of American adults declared that they did not know about palliative care. Furthermore, over 90% of adults who were informed announced that they would prefer this approach for family members if they were ill“.


 [1] American College of Physicians: International organisation comprising over 152,000 doctors and uniting the largest number of practitioners in the United States.

Source : Institut Européen de bioéthique (27/09/2017) ; BioEdge, Michael Cook (23/09/2017)

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