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October 31, 2016

Andrew W. Gurman, M.D.
American Medical Association
330 N. Wabash, Suite 43482
Chicago, IL 60611-5885
Dear Dr. Gurman:
Our organization has learned that the American Medical
Association is considering changing its long-time position of
opposing allowing physicians to participate in the intentionally
induced deaths of their patients (in other words, physicianassisted suicide). Our organization strongly urges you not to
change your policy. Your organization has enormous influence
in the shaping of public policy concerning health care and medical
issues and a change in your position would almost certainly give
momentum to the effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide in
the U.S. This would have momentous consequences, as have been
vividly apparent in the countries and U.S. states that have legalized
this so far. It will transform a healing profession into a killing
profession. It will drive a wedge between physicians and their
patients, causing people to deeply distrust their physicians who
they will not be sure will be faithful to an ethic to help them when
they are seriously ill. It will lead to the terminally ill and even
others who are seriously ill being viewed as expendable and not
being provided the kind of care that they need and deserve. It will
encourage an attitude that it is not worth putting forth the expense
to provide medical help for the latter and that supposedly limited
medical resources should not be used to aid them. It will reduce
medical decision-making to a kind of cost-benefit analysis, instead
of it being concerned about upholding the basic dignity of the
human person. It will result in those with mental illness, who are
suffering depression and the like, to seek to be aided in killing
themselves instead of getting the help they need to overcome their
problems. It inevitably will spread to more and more categories of
people, including those who aren’t even seriously ill and children
with serious illnesses and birth defects, as the European experience
is making clear. Instead of pediatric and neonatal specialists
working to save handicapped newborns, they will be increasingly
looked to for the purpose of ending their lives. While the “right to
die” is what the advocates of physician-assisted suicide and other

forms of euthanasia claim is their objective, supposedly because of some notion of the need for
human autonomy, experience has shown that the right to die very quickly becomes a kind of duty
to die (i.e., if one is elderly and infirm and grieviously or even seriously chronically ill he is
expected to save everyone else the effort, cost, and concern that goes with helping him and allow
himself to be “put down” in the manner of an animal). Indeed, there is evidence that the elderly
are becoming increasingly fearful that medical authorities might think of them as undeserving of
care, even if they wish to have it, so they should just be allowed die. This was strikingly
illustrated with a recent news report of an elderly woman having tattooed on her arm “Don’t
euthanize me,” so that no one—family or physician or other caretaker—would think that she
would somehow want this. Not only is it likely that allowing physician-assisted suicide will
result in the seriously ill and elderly being confronted with the claim that they have a duty to die,
but physicians will more and more come under pressure to take part in such killing even if they
have deep reluctance. Indeed, it is likely, in light of other developments occurring in the health
care field, that as time progresses their rights of conscience not to take part in this will cease to
be respected. It is also very likely that, even if physician-assisted suicide is widely legalized, a
multitude of legal issues will result from it that will cause potentially serious problems for the
medical profession. As social scientists, we are very well aware of where societal trends are
going and the likely consequences of them, and allowing physician-assisted suicide will have
calamitous effects for vulnerable populations, for the medical and healing professions generally,
and for American life and society in general. It will lead to a further erosion of respect for
innocent human life generally, just as arguably the legalization of abortion did.
Again, we strongly urge your organization to continue its official opposition to physicianassisted suicide.

Stephen M. Krason, Esq., Ph.D.
Society of Catholic Social Scientists
(On behalf of the entire Board of Directors
of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists)