Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide: an ISMS Resolution
The following resolution will be presented at the ISMS meeting April 23-25. Please consider reading the resolution and signing your name to the bottom. Please include your professional title (eg: MD, DO), whether you are a member of the ISMS, and the state in which you currently reside and/or practice. We are happy to receive signatures from physicians in any state. If you have a role in healthcare other than physician, we kindly ask you to refrain from signing your name as the petition is aimed at influencing a physicians-only medical society.
Illinois State Medical Society Resolution 09.2019-12 (A-20)
Reaffirmation of the Most Recent Position Regarding Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide
Proposed by Benjamin German, MD
WHEREAS, since the role of the physician has been as healer and preserver of life since the time of Hippocrates, it would be antithetical for the physician to deliberately hasten death (1), and
WHEREAS, the American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics states “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” (2) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) Ethics Manual; 7th Edition, states “making physician-assisted suicide legal raised serious ethical, clinical, and social concerns,” (3) and
WHEREAS, currently in the state of ILLINOIS a person is guilty of inducement of suicide if one “offers and provides the physical means by which another person commits or attempts to commit suicide,” (4) and
WHEREAS, eight states and the District of Columbia now have legalized Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide (PAS) through their state legislatures, and in many cases these legislative actions were closely preceded by a change in position of their state medical societies either to neutrality or to support, and
WHEREAS, in this climate of increased support in some states for Euthanasia and PAS, neutrality is tantamount to endorsing these practices, and
WHEREAS, physicians have effective treatments to mitigate the suffering of dying patients, and though these treatments may at times hasten death (Principle of Double-Effect) (5), they are not given with lethal intent and are accepted as ethical medical treatment, and
WHEREAS, the citizens of ILLINOIS have the right to put trust in their physician as a healer, not a purveyor of death, and
WHEREAS, the medically vulnerable could be disproportionately affected, as assisting patients in death diminishes the sanctity of life and may be seen as a cost-containment strategy, (5) and
WHEREAS, linking physician-assisted suicide to the practice of medicine could harm both the integrity and public image of the profession, (5) and
WHEREAS, there is often uncertainty in the diagnosis or the prognosis of an illness, (5) therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) reaffirm its position which “opposes and declares as unethical physician participation in active euthanasia or physician-aided suicide.”
RESOLVED that the ISMS reaffirm its lengthier position statement on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide which was affirmed first in 1998. (exact wording can be found at citation 6)
- The Indiana State Medical Association, Public Policy Manual 2017.
- AMA Principles of Medical Ethics, Chapter 5, https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/ama-assn.org/files/corp/media-browser/code-of-medical-ethics-chapter-5.pdf
- Sulmasy LS, Bledsoe TA; ACP Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee. American College of Physicians ethics manual. Seventh edition. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170:S1-S32. doi:10.7326/M18-2160.
- 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/12-31. Accessed 9/2019 <http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=072000050K12-34.5>
- Sulmasy DP, et. al. “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Why Neutrality by Organized Medicine Is Neither Neutral Nor Appropriate.” J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Aug;33(8):1394-1399. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4424-8. Epub 2018 May 2.
- Illinois State Medical Society. Policy and Action Statements. House of Delegate Policy 1998, reaffirmed 2009. “The role of the Physician The role of a physician is as a teacher and guardian of the public health, in direct and indirect care of patients. This role includes the application of proven scientific methods and tools to the healing of illness and injuries. Where the patient cannot be made whole, the physician is to control the infirmity. Where control is impossible, then the physician is charged with the responsibility to slow progress of illness, if possible, and give whatever pain relief and emotional support and comfort necessary to the patient and family. Where severe pain is present and the condition is clearly terminal, adequate pain relief should be administered to ensure the patient’s comfort. Assistance of any person in the termination of life, whether one’s own or another’s, for whatever reason, even where drugs and tools of a physician are used, is unethical and outside the role of the physician.”