US nurses strongly oppose assisted suicide

Michael Cook
27 Oct 2012
Reproduced with Permission

Despite campaigns in several states for the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia and the existence of legal assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington state, the American Nurses Association (ANA) still strongly opposes both end-of-life options.

It is currently requesting public comment on a position paper updating its 1994 stand.

The draft takes a realistic view of increasing pressure on nurses to acquiesce to patients' requests for help in dying. They may have to cope with "their own sense of suffering, discomfort, confusion, and inadequacy". However, it insists that "The reality that all forms of human suffering and pain cannot necessarily be removed except through death is not adequate justification for professional sanctioning of assisted suicide".

Both the American Medical Association and the ANA believe that participation in assisted suicide is "incompatible with professional role integrity and violates the social contract the professions have with society". Both organisations are committed to honouring what they term "the sanctity of life".

What about the patient's right to self-determination? The draft statement acknowledges this. But it says that "In order to preserve the moral mandates of the profession and the integrity of the individual nurse, nurses are not obligated to comply with all patient and family requests".