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Medicine's Position Is Both Pivotal and Precarious in Assisted-Suicide Debate

Paul Cotton
JAMA. 1995;273(5):363-364. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520290015005.
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PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED suicide may become as contentious an issue as abortion.

The escalating battle pits those who say they are protecting a right to life against those who are demanding a right to choose. Opposing camps are virtually identical to those that war over abortion with one notable exception: organized medicine.

"They are two different issues," says American Medical Association (AMA) board of trustees secretary Thomas R. Reardon, MD, an internist in Portland, Ore. "Not even experts agree when life begins," so the AMA maintains that abortion is a medical matter best left between patient and physician. Assisted suicide involves "actively participating in the killing of a living, breathing, functioning, cognitive human being who has a terminal illness," says Reardon.

"For myself and for the AMA this is not a religious issue, it is an ethical issue. Our purpose as physicians is to heal." The option of assisted suicide would tarnish


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