Recent pressure on the American Medical Association has not changed the position of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, which remains strongly opposed to assisted suicide.
In a recent report, the Council declared that, “in its current form the Code offers guidance to support physicians and the patients they serve in making well-considered, mutually respectful decisions about legally available options for care at the end of life in the intimacy of a patient-physician relationship. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs therefore recommends that the Code of Medical Ethics not be amended.”
Although the tone is studiously calm and respectful, the report, which notes diverging views, makes several observations:
- It advocates use of the term, “physician-assisted suicide”, which describes the practice with the greatest precision and distinguishes it from euthanasia. It rejects the terms “aid in dying” or “death with dignity” which can be used to describe either euthanasia or palliative care, since they maintain a “degree of ambiguity [which] is unacceptable for providing ethical guidance”.
- It denounces “studied neutrality”, considered as a way of escaping from “irreconcilable differences” which ignore issues instead of debating them. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs notes that the neutral posture has had “unintended consequences”. It has basically helped in “stifling the very debate it purports to encourage” or acquiesces “contested practice”.
- Finally, although supporters of “death with dignity” argue that claims that physician-assisted suicide is hard to manage and puts society on a slippery slope are “flawed, inadequate or distorted”, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs believes otherwise: “Current evidence from Europe does tell a cautionary tale”. It paints a picture of a slippery slope, lack of government control and euthanasia for psychological problems.