Culture Beat / June 13, 2018

The AMA Moves Left on Guns and Suicide

It now supports an “assault weapons” ban and refuses to condemn physician-assisted suicide.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently waffled on two issues about which it has in the past largely maintained consistent positions. First, the AMA has refused to reaffirm its past opposition to physician-assisted suicide. “Rather than reaffirming its longstanding opposition to assisted suicide,” LifeNews reports, “the AMA has in effect sent it back to the Council for further study — opening the door to a change in position." This is a clear cave to the "death with dignity” advocates who have long sought support from the medical community to promote the practice as ethical, with the ultimate goal of seeing it legalized nationally. In the past, the AMA’s ethics panel’s rejection of the practice has been definitively clear, stating, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” And legalizing it leads to — surprise — more suicides.

The second issue the AMA has waded into is gun control. Under pressure from gun-control activists, the AMA caved and endorsed a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” Outgoing AMA President David Barbe, who is a big advocate for gun control, stated, “The AMA must not back down from addressing gun violence.” Pointing out recent school attacks, Barbe further argued, “The fact that this problem continues to worsen has spurred a new sense of urgency in this house even while Congress fails to act.” AMA delegates also endorsed banning firearm possession for individuals under the age of 21.

Here we have a clear example of two slippery slope issues on which the AMA has fallen for the emotional gambit rather than the rationally based facts. On the issue of physician-assisted suicide, the real ethical problem is two-fold. First, it puts a patient in a vulnerable position for risk of coercion, mistakes and even abuse (obviously with no opportunity for correction). Second, it has the potential to put a doctor on the hook legally speaking to perform a physician-assisted suicide even if they oppose the practice on ethical or religious grounds. Look no further than the controversy over providing services for same-sex weddings.

Meanwhile, the AMA throwing its weight behind a ban on “assault weapons,” along with support for other limits to Americans’ Second Amendment rights, is a huge win for the anti-gun lobby. That’s especially true if the gun-grabbers can now make the argument that the AMA says guns are bad for one’s health. It’s this kind of weight that can move politicians and even public opinion, not based on any rational reasoning but simply based upon the academic status of a trusted organization.

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