American Nurses Association Opposes Assisted Suicide

Nora Sullivan, M.P.A  

The American Nurses Association has released a draft statement which comes out firmly against nurses’ participation in assisted suicide and euthanasia.  The American Nurses Association is a national organization which works to advance “the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the rights of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.”


The statement expresses that the American Nurses Association is “strongly opposed to nurses’ participation in assisted suicide and active euthanasia because these acts are in direct violation of the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, the ethical traditions and goals of the profession, and its covenant with society.”  The document also acknowledges the distress nurses suffer when asked to participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide and affirms that limits to their patients right to self-determination exist.


In a recent paper by the Charlotte Lozier Institute regarding Massachusetts’ upcoming ‘Death with Dignity’ Initiative, Dr. Jacqueline Harvey discusses pressing concerns raised by assisted suicide.  Ethical concerns also concern nurses, who are medical professionals entrusted with the care of the sick and who help to promote and sustain health among their patients.


Concern 5 of Dr. Harvey’s paper (Medico-Professional Opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide) is especially noteworthy is relation to the opposition of the American Nurses Association.  Dr. Harvey points out that despite the projection of the media that most opponents to assisted suicide are religious figures, the data shows that the primary opponents are medical professionals, mainly physicians.  In taking a stance against assisted suicide and euthanasia, the American Nurses Association is merely standing with the American Medical Association which has not wavered in its condemnation of the practice.  As the American Medical Association points out, “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.”


The statement issued by the American Nurses Association has not yet been ratified and is open for public comment until November 30th.


The American Nurses Association’s statement is very important, as is the one issued by the American Medical Association, as they demonstrate that the consensus of the medical community is that assisted suicide and euthanasia are not medically necessary procedures.  This stance reveals that medical professionals, whose primary focus is the well being of their patients, do not see these practices as contributing to the well being of their patients, even if it does release them from pain.  Both of these associations of medical professionals recognize the assisted suicide and euthanasia places an incredible burden on the medical staff asked to carry it out, is itself a dangerous procedure, and will have serious effects on the patients’ families and society.


As this issue comes to the ballot in the coming days, and no doubt, is revisited time and time again in the future, the positions of these doctors and nurses are ones that should definitely be taken to heart.



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