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October 31, 2016

Andrew W. Gurman, M.D.
President
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, physician-assisted 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 physicianassisted 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 grievously 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 physicianassisted 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
physician-assisted
suicide.
Sincerely,
Stephen M. Krason, Esq., Ph.D.
President
Society of Catholic Social Scientists
(On behalf of the entire Board of Directors
of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists)