NCD Letter to American Medical Association Regarding Physician Assisted Suicide

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February 15, 2017
 
American Medical Association
AMA Plaza
330 North Wabash Ave., Suite 39300
Chicago, IL 60611-5885
 
Dear Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA):
 
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability--an independent, nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to Congress, the President, and other federal agencies on matters affecting the lives of people with disabilities--to urge you to uphold one of the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath, “Do No Harm” and affirm the AMA’s long-standing position of opposing physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
 
Physician assisted suicide disproportionately harms people with disabilities, the elderly, and people who are poor and opens the door for insurance companies to provide PAS in lieu of costly treatment options. The AMA cannot afford to take a neutral stance on PAS. The AMA’s opinions and stances are highly regarded and respected. Proponents of PAS may use your neutrality as an implied endorsement when lobbying states for PAS legislation. NCD fears a neutral stance by the AMA give proponents of this type of legislation the desired boost that only a national medical organization could provide. We implore you to reaffirm your commitment to “Do No Harm” and continue to expressly oppose PAS.
 
The proponents of physician assisted suicide laws assert they support the right to what they call “death with dignity.” What is not asserted is that they are also giving insurance companies new rights, too – the legal means to deny treatment. The romantic notion of assisted suicide as something individuals do at the end of life to make their death more comfortable becomes tainted because without the means to live, the “right-to-die” becomes the dangerous default.
 
I’ve attached NCD’s 1997 position paper on this topic – it provides a comprehensive overview of why we oppose PAS. If we can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Amy Nicholas at anicholas@ncd.gov. Thank you.
 
Respectfully,
 
Clyde Terry
Chairperson