We can’t be neutral on assisted suicide Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Respect for end of life

The Catholic Church teaches that respect for life doesn’t demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome.

However, intentionally hastening death — whether through drugs or deliberate neglect of basic care — is not morally permissive.

So it is disturbing that the American Medical Association (AMA)’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs is gathering information to “outline the current landscape” on physician-assisted suicide, reports a Catholic News Service (CNS) article.

The AMA currently opposes physician-assisted suicide. Catholic organizations have expressed concern that this information gathering effort by the AMA is a first step toward taking a neutral stance on assisted suicide, which actua

lly would open the door to this practice becoming accepted more widely.

Speak up against assisted suicide

The AMA will be meeting November 12 to 15 in Orlando, Fla.  The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Bioethics Center are encouraging physicians to address their concerns at this meeting.

“We are mostly trying to get physicians in particular as well as experts in the area of assisted suicide and palliative care who are most compelling in their arguments against assisted suicide and against the neutrality of the medical association,” said Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

“But we also secondarily urge individuals to contact the AMA as well because we’re all patients of doctors and we all have a stake in the medical professions not adopting assisted suicide,” Schleppenbach told CNS.

“We need every physician possible who is opposed to assisted suicide to speak up and to encourage other physicians to speak up,” he added.

Pressure for change in stance

There is no doubt pressure on the AMA to change its opposition to assisted suicide. The adoption of a neutral stance on assisted suicide by state medical associations in California, Oregon, and Vermont seemed to have played a role

in changes in state law in those states governing the practice.

Assisted suicide also is legal in Washington state. A proposal to legalize it in the District of Columbia is under consideration now by the D.C. Council, and in at least one state, Colorado, a measure to legalize assisted suicide will be on the November ballot, CNS reported.

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia and a columnist in the Catholic Herald, expressed disappointment in the AMA’s discussion of the issue. He charged that the association “has continued to yield to growing pressures to allow unethical and corruptive practices to enter by the backdoor into the ‘standard of care’ in medicine and the biosciences.”

Contacting the AMA

I encourage physicians and anyone concerned about the AMA changing its stand on physician-assisted suicide to contact the AMA. Here is the contact information:

American Medical Association
AMA Plaza
330 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-5885
800- 621-8335

Remind the AMA that we must show tenderness and compassion to those who are dying but not give in to the temptation to hasten their death.