American public health professionals support assisted suicide


A controversial 2008 decision by the American Public Health Association (APHA) to back "aid in dying" (ie, assisted suicide) slipped almost completely under the media’s radar at the time, even BioEdge’s. In retrospect, it seems like a highly significant decision.

Why? It means that the official policy of the "oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world" – 30,000 of them – is to support assisted suicide to the hilt. Or, as they prefer to call it in Oregon, "patient-directed dying" or "physician aid-in-dying".

All the facts about the debate surrounding the decision have not emerged, but it may be significant that another policy adopted at the October APHA conference was strong support for safe and legal abortion. There must have been a lot of politicking going on behind the scenes.

Some of the major features of the APHA policy recommendations on assisted suicide are:

>>> [It] Supports allowing a mentally competent, terminally ill adult to obtain a prescription for medication that the person could self-administer to control the time, place, and manner of his or her impending death, where safeguards equivalent to those in the Oregon DDA are in place…

>>> [It] Rejects the use of inaccurate terms such as "suicide" and "assisted suicide" to refer to the choice of a mentally competent terminally ill patient to seek medications to bring about a peaceful and dignified death.

>>> [It] Supports measures to ensure that patients eligible to receive information about death with dignity and are able to choose alternatives such as aggressive pain and symptom management, palliative care, hospice care, and care to maximize quality of life and independence.

>>> [It] Supports the provision of information about the full range of end-of-life care options to terminally ill patients permitted by law in the state in which the patient is receiving care, including, for example, voluntarily stopping eating and drinking and palliative sedation…




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