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Physician groups revisiting stances on physician-assisted death

As the practice becomes legal in more states, both the AOA and the AMA consider whether their positions need refining.

The American Medical Association and the AOA currently oppose physician-assisted death, also known as physician-assisted suicide. However, as public and state support for it continues to grow, both organizations are considering whether their positions should change.

In 2016, an AMA council was tasked with reviewing the group’s official policy. Last week, at the AMA House of Delegates, the council advised keeping the policy as is, but instead of approving its recommendations, delegates voted to refer them back to the council for further review. The action came after much debate on the AMA’s House floor, according to the Chicago Tribune, with just 56 percent of delegates voting for referral.

Revised AOA policy on the horizon?

The AOA’s policy on physician-assisted death states that the association opposes laws that legalize physician participation in ending a patient’s life. Last year, the AOA’s House of Delegates voted for the association to research physician-assisted death and make recommendations on whether the AOA’s position should evolve.

The AOA’s End of Life Policy Task Force is now advising the AOA House of Delegates to approve a revised policy on physician-assisted death, which the AOA House will consider next month.

The revised policy maintains opposition to legalizing physician-assisted death, but adds a note that physicians who choose to help their patients end their lives shouldn’t be discriminated against so long as physician-assisted death is legal where they practice.

Read the entire proposed policy here.

Where physician-assisted death is allowed

Physician-assisted death is now legal in Colorado, Washington, DC, Washington state, Oregon, Vermont and Montana, according to It will be legal in Hawaii starting next year. Physician-assisted death became legal in California in 2016; it was recently challenged in court, but remains legal as of June 18, 2018. In the past several years, a number of additional states have introduced legislation to legalize physician-assisted death.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans support the legalization of physician-assisted death, according to a Gallop poll conducted in May 2018.


  1. DO

    I will 100% revoke my membership should the AOA change it’s position to anything other than what it is. Disgraceful that this is even being “revisited.”

    1. h

      The sins of the world…
      It is only going to get worse. This is a tragedy for the medical community, especially our alma mater under the osteopath flag. What would A.T. Still think of what he founded has become?
      Pray for perseverance as we battle this again.

      1. Michael Uphues, D.O.

        He would think it was the compassionate thing to do when people with terminal illnesses are suffering unnecessarily.

    2. Anthony Marsh

      I agree. In one article we are concerned about violence against physicians and then in another we are sanitizing physician violence against patients. There is karma in this world.

  2. DO2

    Our profession is focused on healing. We study to keep people alive; it isn’t hard to kill people, humans have been doing it for millennia. A patient has the right to choose what they do with their life, but don’t turn physicians into executioners. Bring in a tech or separate career field to end suffering through death. This focus on making physicians bringers of death is horrific.

  3. Katharine O Brien

    Physician first do no harm – killing someone would be the definition of ultimate harm. It is not harm to die – stop eating and drinking, but certainly don’t ask me to kill you. In a society where all morality is for negotiation I hope (but don’t expect) the AMA and AOA will stand their ground

    1. Paul Rein

      First do no harm. I’d suggest you follow a patient with ALS, when they get to where they can’t speak, they can’t feed themselves, they can’t get on a toilet. They ask you to please give them drugs. Are you really serious that you are doing no harm by allowing them to suffer? I’d also suggest you read the Oath of Maimonides. Our class chose that oath upon graduation. It’s time to re-evaluate what you think doing no harm means.

  4. JH

    As the opioid “crisis” sponsored by our government deepens, more and more individuals in pain will be requesting this “service” from their physicians.

  5. Dr

    (Sarcsam): Why not. Doctors kill people already before they are born (abortion)…why discriminate against the born?
    (Truth): doctors should not be killing anybody

  6. Scott Bormann

    There are plenty of ways to ease suffering and that is a different topic but anything that is explicitly used or prescribed to end a life is completely immoral regardless of whatever legitimate moral code is used to attempt to justify it. Hospice and conversations about end of life wishes are very important and in my opinion the physician assisted suicide push has come from a failure to have those conversations and/or refer to hospice.

  7. Scott Bormann

    Assisted SUICIDE is apparently not the political correct term anymore? Must make people uncomfortable to use a word that actually had the correct description. Maybe that’s because it’s immoral?

    1. Dr Joe

      A technicality is the definitions and their innuendo. People who choose to die with physician assistance are already dying and they are trying to avoid further pain, aggravation, and feeling of futile existence. Suicide generally implies someone who may not be dying at the moment but whose mental status may be disturbed and they choose death over coping with the turbulence.
      The religious implication that suicide is a sin is widespread in the USA. But in fact, people choose to sin every day and we don’t make as much fuss unless it becomes public. Adultery is common but no such fuss is made about it unless someone is caught, then they are bad for doing that.
      We do live in America with the freedom to choose our path to the best of our ability. Choosing an easier death should not be such a great leap.


    As the osteopathic community considers Physician-Assisted Death, we should revist The Osteopathic Oath. It reads in part, “I will give no drugs for deadly purposes to any person, though it be asked of me”.

  9. TG

    How ironic that the suicide cases of recent “celebrities” and youths have sparked cries to “do something.” Yet polls reveal society’s gross hypocrisy in claiming that people favor the so-called right-to-die (slippery slope to, “duty to die?”) in consulting another party (i.e. physician) to help you make and execute that choice? Oh, it WILL eventually be decided FOR you, have no fear about that. LOGAN’S RUN, anyone?

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