HealthDay News — The American College of Physicians (ACP) does not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, a practice that raises ethical, clinical, and other concerns, according to a position paper published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In light of increasing discussion and advocacy for physician-assisted suicide to be a legal option at the end of life, Lois Snyder Sulmasy, JD, and Paul S Mueller, MD, MPH, of the ACP Ethics, Professionalism, and Human Rights Committee, address the ethics and legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

The authors note that the ethical arguments against legalizing physician-assisted suicide remain most compelling, and the ACP does not support legalization of physician-assisted suicide. Given the nature of the patient-physician relationship, legalization is problematic, affecting trust in the relationship and in the medical profession, and threatens to alter the role of medical professionals within society.

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Furthermore, the principles at stake also affect medicine’s responsibilities in relation to other issues, and the physician’s duties to provide care that is based on evidence, ethics, and clinical judgement.

“Control over the manner and timing of a person’s death has not been and should not be a goal of medicine,” the authors write. “Throughout patients’ lives, including as they face death, medicine must strive to give patients the care, respect, and comfort they deserve.”

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Snyder Sulmasy L, Mueller PS. Ethics and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide: an American college of physicians position paper [published online September 19, 2017] Ann Intern Med. doi: 10.7326/M17-0938