The American Medical Association (AMA) has held the belief that assisted suicide is not compatible with the role of a doctor. In projected meetings of the AMA in mid November, there are to be discussions as to possible changes in assisted suicide policies. Should the AMA stay loyal to the Hippocratic Oath and continue to oppose assisted suicide?

Sheffield Jamaica Correspondent-The American Medical Association (AMA) has held the belief that assisted suicide is not compatible with the role of a doctor. In projected meetings of the AMA in mid November, there are to be discussions as to possible changes in assisted suicide policies. Should the AMA stay loyal to the Hippocratic Oath and continue to oppose assisted suicide? 

Life is precious. Irrespective of the tragedies and maladies encountered on a daily basis, to forfeit the breath of life bestowed on us is to blatantly demonstrate gross disrespect and lack of appreciation to the Giver for such a precious gift. If we’ve ever received a gift from a loving friend, we’d want to cherish and nurture it. In a similar sense, the Creator has given us a gift – life – and we need to safeguard it. It’s then quite clear, that no organization or authority under the sun should even consider playing a part in taking the life of another. These ones, in fact, are sharers in that sin, and can be likened to murderers.

The American Medical Association is indeed right to oppose assisted suicide. We all should. They should actually continue to enforce the Hippocratic Oath, an oath by which doctors should conduct themselves. They should remain firm and valiant in their decision to move doctors away from such practices. Rather, everyone should be assisting individuals who are struggling and wish to die. They should be helping these ones to cope with their challenging situation in life, instead of resorting to suicide. Life is precious. Irrespective of the heartache and pain we encounter, we can learn to have a positive outlook and learn to forget about things we cannot control.

 

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The Hippocratic Oath was first composed in the Fifth Century, B.C., and has undergone revisions and modifications over the years. Variations have been developed in different countries in the past few centuries, so there is no one true Hippocratic Oath anymore. Still, the basic guidelines for all physicians are similar.

The fact that medicine has changed dramatically in more than 2,500 years virtually requires the concepts of the Hippocratic Oath to change. Chiefly, the fact that doctors can keep patients alive indefinitely in many cases using machines could not have been anticipated even 200 years ago. The question then becomes whether to adapt the Oath to modern medicine.

The idea of “doing no harm” to the patient must be expanded to include preventing needless suffering at or near the end of a patient’s life. Allowing assisted suicide is the most humane reaction in cases where preventing the patient from dying a natural death causes the patient more pain and suffering than death might cause. The moral dilemma to end all dilemmas becomes, “Who determines if staying alive causes more pain and suffering than death?” The dilemma comes because we can’t know for certain if suffering is eliminated at all in death, or if it is made worse or less.

Perhaps the solution that makes more sense is to release physicians from making those life-or-death judgments that clash with following the Hippocratic Oath. Then create a new class of medical professionals who are qualified and vetted to help patients and their families make informed decisions about assisted suicide. Doctors have been trained since the beginning to keep patients alive at all costs, with death seen as defeat or failure. The goal of anyone’s life should be to live it to the fullest but die with dignity, grace, and a minimal amount of pain and suffering. Especially the kind of suffering that is legally and morally proscribed by modern law and medicine due to our obsession with pursuing immortality (quantity) of life at the expense of quality of life. Training a new class of medical professionals who specialize in easing patients into death can provide balance to the issue of determining how and when someone dies.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The Hippocratic Oath states that, “The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients…and not for their hurt or for any wrong.  I will give no deadly drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such.”

The oath makes it clear that physicians are to preserve life and not end it, but with the wide influence of the AMA and a new generation of health providers within the healthcare system, it is hard to say whether those doctors and doctor administrators will continue to abide by the Oath. The pressure from outside influences may cause doctors to abandon it and succumb to acceptance of more liberal views on assisted suicide.

With the presence of end of life issues being of significance in the current culture, there are calls for quick fixes for the terminally ill.  With Obamacare in the mix (and the reluctance in Obamacare policies to provide end of life care) there is more thought to painlessly eliminating terminally ill individuals, in spite of a doctor’s oath to save and protect life.

Doctors should not be punished or required to defend the Hippocratic Oath if they choose not to participate in assisted suicide. Should the AMA include a clause in their bylaws that insists and requires that doctors participate and intervene with terminally ill patients, physicians must be able to retain their rights to not be part of any new possible policies.

There will be arguments that assisted suicide is an act of compassion or “death with dignity,” but a doctor’s role will always be to preserve life. There is no dignity in killing a patient.  If assisted suicide is sanctioned and becomes a common action and is not voluntary on the part of the patient, there will be pressure for patients to submit to ending their lives upon any diagnosis of pending death.

With legalization of doctor-assisted suicide being recently legalized in Canada, there are already pressures being placed on the sick there to submit to euthanization.   A number of cancer patients have been asked whether they want to be euthanized as soon as a diagnosis was presented.

If the American Medical Association changes their policies and doctors are asked to comply with the practice of euthanization, there will be no defense of the sick, elderly and terminally ill.  Assisted suicide is a quick fix and an outlet for disposing of the weak in a society.  Doctors must continue to represent and protect those who deserve respect, love and care  at any point  in their lives, whether young, middle aged or old. These patients don’t deserve death at the hand of their doctors because of a terminal diagnosis. Physicians must remain loyal to the Hippocratic Oath.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-When my father died at the age of 79, his body wracked with tumors and his once-brilliant mind fogged by drugs and the systemic decay that was rapidly claiming him, one of his last lucid utterances was to order me to not allow the hospital staff to hook him up to machines to keep him alive.  He wanted to go gentle into that good night, and I would have fought anyone who tried to deprive him of that.

I believe that, when the end is near, we should all have the right to choose the manner of our passing. When all hope is gone, and all that’s left is pain for the patient and family, suffering and a protracted, expensive, futile fight, we should be allowed to exit under our own terms.

Yes, the Hippocratic Oath exhorts doctors to do no harm.  This has been widely construed as forbidding them from assisting in suicide.  But I don’t think that’s a just and right application of the oath.  It’s very easy to sit in judgment and declare that doctors who help their patients die with dignity should be thrown in jail and lose their licenses, but when you’ve sat by the bedside of a family member who is suffering the torments of the damned and waits only for the blessed surcease of death, things come into a slightly better focus.

I don’t for a moment suggest that doctors who refuse to assist suicides should be penalized in any way.  But neither should those whose concept of mercy extends to the end of life be shunned or punished.  Far better the gentle administration of a carefully metered barbiturate than some other type of homemade ending that might go horribly wrong.  Let the doctors who wish to help do so, and let the patients and families seeking help be given it.

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