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Member Comments on Assisted Suicide Welcome

Last September, ASHP's Council on Legal and Public Affairs recommended that a task force be appointed to develop a policy on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. In March, a 10-member task force was appointed and charged with drafting a policy that could be considered ASHP's official stance on the concept of health professionals assisting in the death of patients. Such a policy would provide guidance to ASHP staff, affiliated state societies, and individual practitioners in evaluating and commenting on state or federal legislative or regulatory proposals or judicial actions that relate to health professional involvement in assisted suicide. 

For the benefit of practitioners and health systems in those states where assisted suicide is legalized, the task force was charged with developing practical advice that would offer guidance on the responsibilities, duties, and areas of concern that face practitioners. Such guidance would incorporate ASHP's new policy on conscientious objection and incorporate and be consistent with existing policies on capital punishment, adequate pain management, and appropriate palliative care for the dying. The task force will consider the following rights/responsibilities as it drafts such guidance: 

  • Practitioner's duty to care for the patient and caregiver vis-a-vis palliative care. 
  • Practitioner's right to refuse to participate in certain treatments that are morally, religiously, or ethically troubling. 
  • Practitioner's responsibility to the employer in the context of employment law. 
  • Employer's responsibility to provide care to the patient. 
  • Employer's responsibility to provide services to the patient's caregiver.
An "Open Forum on Assisted Suicide" was held at ASHP's annual meeting in Baltimore in June, to provide the task force with an opportunity to gather members's views on this significant and timely health-care issue.

The task force will meet at ASHP headquarters in Bethesda on August 3. We would like to continue to receive input from members on this issue. Go to the Communication Center on ASHP's Web site and note your comments in the Government Affairs Conference Room. You can also fax your comments to the Government Affairs Division at 301-657-1615. 


Posted July 28, 1998. Source ASHP's Government Affairs Division