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ACP-ASIM Pressroom

ACP-ASIM Opposes Physician-Assisted Suicide

November 1, 2000

PHILADELPHIA -- (November 1, 2000) The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) Board of Regents voted at its quarterly meeting this past weekend to not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. ACP-ASIM, the nation's largest medical specialty organization and second-largest physician group, came to its conclusion for reasons of principle and because of concerns about how to effectively regulate the practice and protect vulnerable populations, and the possibilities of abuse. The College also continues to be concerned about research showing that physicians and other clinicians are often not trained well in end-of-life care, and that physician-assisted suicide as standard practice could undermine the physician-patient relationship and improvements in end-of-life care.

"Physician-assisted suicide should not become part of standard medical care. It is a medical and ethical dilemma that is due in part to not adequately providing physicians with the training necessary for caring for patients at the end of life. Physicians need to comfort and heal, not be agents of death," said Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, ACP-ASIM president. "To help counter this, the College continues to provide practical advice and guidance for clinicians who care for the dying in order to continue improving patient care."

ACP-ASIM recognizes that the arguments of those in support of the legalization of physician-assisted suicide are substantial, and that particular cases will remain medically and ethically challenging. However, the College feels that these factors do not outweigh other critical societal interests at stake.

Lois Snyder, JD, Director, ACP-ASIM Center for Ethics and Professionalism, says, "The more compelling arguments for physician-assisted suicide -- about avoiding great pain and suffering -- do not seem to be motivating requests for physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. Based on current evidence, people seeking physician-assisted suicide there are more often concerned about loss of autonomy and control. We question whether it is medicine's role to give patients control over the timing and manner of death."

ACP-ASIM has been engaged in the debate about physician-assisted suicide for several years. The ACP-ASIM Consensus Panel on End-of-Life Care was started in 1997 to develop papers on the care of the dying under the College's Center for Ethics and Professionalism. The papers are being published in journals and in a book, and are being used as training guides in conferences and hospital seminars, and in medical training programs and professional meetings. They provide practical guidance and information about best practices for physicians to help dying patients achieve closure and find meaning in the final phase of life.

The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) is dedicated to the advancement of internal medicine so that its members can provide the best quality care for their patients. A nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, it is the second-largest physician group in the United States. Its mission is to enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine.

Contact

Leigh Fazzina, 215-351-2514 or 800-523-1546, ext. 2514

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