The AOA House of Delegates recently approved a resolution that calls for the association’s Department of Professional Affairs to research the ethics of physician-assisted death, also known as physician-assisted suicide and physician aid in dying.
After considering the current literature and state laws concerning physician-assisted death, the department will discuss whether AOA policy should be changed and will report its findings to the 2018 AOA House of Delegates.
Current AOA policy on physician-assisted death states that the association opposes laws that legalize individual physician participation. It also urges the osteopathic medical profession to provide patients with information on alternatives. This policy was originally passed in 1997 and reaffirmed this year.
In 2014, physician-assisted death captured the national news spotlight when Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, moved from California to Oregon to lawfully pursue a prescription for medication that would end her life. Maynard explained her decision publicly via news reports and a video that received nearly 12 million views on YouTube.
Physician-assisted death is now legal in six states (Washington, California, Oregon, Montana, Colorado and Vermont) and the District of Columbia. An additional 30 state legislatures will consider legalizing physician-assisted death this year, according to Death with Dignity. Policy regarding physician-assisted death has rapidly shifted in recent years: California and Colorado legalized it last year, while DC legalized it this year.
Read more in The DO about physician-assisted death and end-of-life care: