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Advocates for Disabled Warn Against AMA’s Softening Opposition to Physician-Assisted

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Unread 06.14.18, 05:23 PM
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Advocates for Disabled Warn Against AMA’s Softening Opposition to Physician-Assisted

On 06.14.18 11:58 AM posted by Katherine Rohloff

The American Medical Association’s decision this week to reconsider its long-standing opposition to assisted suicide doesn’t sit well with some advocates for the disabled.

The AMA voted*Monday by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent to continue studying the issue, though without reaffirming that its current policy opposing assisted suicide would remain in place.

That troubles Diane Coleman, who faces pressure to decide whether to continue the treatment she needs to keep her alive. That pressure comes from two different directions.

Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group opposed to physician-assisted suicide, says one is the love she has for her family and for life, despite needing an oxygen mask for every breath she takes because of a neuromuscular disability.

The other is pressure from the government and the medical community with respect to controlling the surging cost of health care.

“People like myself feel this pressure when our needs cannot be met, and we would not be able to live for six months without medical help,” Coleman told The Daily Signal. “As a result, it feels like the only way to deal with health care needs is to get through it by dying. So the government makes it a duty to die, not a need.”

The American Medical Association’s current policy on assisted suicide is that “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good” and that “physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

In response to the AMA decision to revisit its policy on physician-assisted suicide, Coleman teamed up with Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, to argue in favor of maintaining existing policy.

They issued a press release explaining what they fear would be the detrimental effects that would follow if the AMA reverses its policy, and submitted two formal statements to the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.

“We hoped the AMA’s policy would be settled,” Coleman said. “From our point of view, the existing policy is the correct policy, and if you look around the country, the medical community has a lot of opposition to the AMA’s decision.”

The AMA’s move came less than a week after fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide within three days of one another.

Coleman says that the idea of taking a neutral stance on physician-assisted suicide has been bubbling among some AMA members for two years.

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, says that physician-assisted suicide has changed the culture in which medicine is practiced.

Anderson said assisted suicide reduces the trust patients have in their doctors for preserving their lives and provides “perverse incentives” for insurers, as well as for public and private health care organizations.

“Physician-assisted suicide offers a cheap, quick fix in a world of increasingly scarce health care resources,” Anderson said. “It corrupts the profession of medicine by permitting the tools of healing to be used as techniques for killing.”

Anderson said he is concerned by the potential of the AMA’s easing its policy of opposition, or even replacing it with one in favor of the practice.

In their press release, Coleman and Golden said: “If insurers deny, or even merely delay, expensive life-saving treatment, the person will be steered toward assisted suicide. Will insurers do the right thing, or the cheap thing?”

Critics of assisted suicide also say they worry about the lack of sufficient guardrails.

“There is a sense of no questions being asked—or even a counseling option,” Coleman told The Daily Signal. “There are no independent witnesses required when lethal drugs are inserted, and no one to protect the elderly when their families want to use physician-assisted suicide for them.”

The post Advocates for Disabled Warn Against AMA’s Softening Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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