American Family Physicians Association (AAFP) changes position on medical aid in dying

In October 2018 it is reported that the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) broke ranks with the American Medical Association (AMA) by adopting a position of “engaged neutrality” on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

At its Congress of Delegates in New Orleans the AAFP, the second largest component society of the AMA with more than 131,400 members voted to adopt a position of “engaged neutrality” and to reject the use of the terms “assisted suicide” or “physician-assisted suicide”. “Through our ongoing and continuous relationship with our patients, family physicians are well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care, and we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients,” said the AAFP president Michael Munger, a physician from Kansas.

This is important in the UK because the BMA radically opposes assisted dying, whereas the BMJ has come out in favour of putting it to the vote, to show the true picture amongst British doctors.

Often it is the minority groups such as ‘Care Not Killing’ which shout the loudest. I once heard a story of a Methodist Minister trainee student who wrote his sermons out in full with notes in the margin. On one occasion one of his colleagues happened to come upon one of these sermon transcripts and was amused to read in the margin ‘weak point, shout louder’.

In the UK. nurses are the largest group of care providers for the terminally ill, so it is not surprising that following an extensive and detailed consultation process with their members, the Royal College of Nurses moved in 2009 to adopt a neutral stance in relation to assisted dying for people who have a terminal illness.

It is time the BMA followed suit and stopped giving politicians an excuse against seeing reason and voting for legislation allowing Assisted Dying for the terminally ill and those suffering long term incurable health conditions which have reached a stage of relentless suffering, provided this is their own persistent wish.