Medical professional codes have long prohibited physician involvement in assisting a patient's suicide. However, despite ethical and legal prohibitions, calls for the liberalization of this ban have grown in recent years.
The medical profession should articulate its views on the arguments for and against changes in public policy and decide whether changes are prudent. In addressing such a contentious issue, physicians, policymakers, and society must fully consider the needs of patients, the vulnerability of particular patient groups, issues of trust and professionalism, and the complexities of end-of-life health care. Physician-assisted suicide is prominent among the issues that define our professional norms and codes of ethics.
The American College of Physiciansâ€“American Society of Internal Medicine (ACPâ€“ASIM) does not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. The routine practice of physician-assisted suicide raises serious ethical and other concerns. Legalization would undermine the patientâ€“physician relationship and the trust necessary to sustain it; alter the medical profession's role in society; and endanger the value our society places on life, especially on the lives of disabled, incompetent, and vulnerable individuals. The ACPâ€“ASIM remains thoroughly committed to improving care for patients at the end of life.
*This paper was written by Lois Snyder, JD, and Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD, for the American College of Physiciansâ€“American Society of Internal Medicine (ACPâ€“ASIM) Ethics and Human Rights Committee. Members of the Ethics and Human Rights Committee were Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD (Chair); David W. Potts, MD (Vice Chair); David A. Fleming, MD; Susan Dorr Goold, MD; Vincent E. Herrin, MD; Jay A. Jacobson, MD; Joanne Lynn, MD; Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD; William E. Golden, MD; and Lee J. Dunn Jr., JD, LLM. This paper was approved by the ACPâ€“ASIM Board of Regents on 27 October 2000.