Euthanasia and Medical Ethics
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The American Medical Association (AMA) has taken a strong position on the subject of euthanasia and its counterpart, doctor-assisted suicide. “There is, in short, compelling evidence of the need to ensure that all patients have access to quality palliative care, but not of any need for physician-assisted suicide” (AMA: Anti-Euthanasia, Pro-Pain Control). The AMA stands firmly against euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide and is currently proposing a new project that will educate doctors on the ethical issues involved as well as explore new avenues into pain control. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States, makes an even stronger statement against euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide:
We must be wary of those who are too willing to end the lives of the elderly and the ill. If we ever decide that a poor quality of life justifies ending that life, we have taken a step down a slippery slope that places all of us in danger. The call for euthanasia surfaces in our society…under the guise of “death with dignity” or assisted suicide… I believe euthanasia lies outside the commonly held life-centered values of the West and cannot be allowed without incurring great social and personal tragedy…medicine cannot be both our healer and our killer.
The issues relating to euthanasia are not simple ones, nor is there agreement as to the morality of the act itself. To further complicate the matter, more than the doctor and patient are usually involved; in most cases, the concerns and beliefs of the law and family members must be considered as well. In addition, there is a great gulf between euthanasia and patient-assisted suicide in that with the first, the doctor or family member must perform the actual act that will take the patients life. In both cases, the decision involves the ethics and beliefs of the patient as well as those of the individual who is involved in ending the patient’s life.