More MS news articles for May 2001

Anti-Euthanasia Position Maintained by World Medical Association

DIVONNE-LES-BAINES, France (Reuters Health) May 04 - With the decriminalization of euthanasia under certain circumstances in The Netherlands, and other nations such as Australia and Belgium considering similar legislation, the council of the World Medical Association is expected to approve over the weekend a resolution to reinforce its position that active euthanasia is unethical.

"The World Medical Association reaffirms its strong belief that euthanasia is in conflict with basic ethical principles of medical practice, and...strongly encourages all physicians to refrain from participating in euthanasia, even if national law allows it," a draft resolution presented at the meeting reads.

The proposal was approved by the WMA's Medical Ethics Committee this week with only the representative of the Royal Dutch Medical Association voting against it. The full council of the WMA is due to ratify it over the weekend, after which it will go to the WMA's annual assembly in India in October.

The subject of euthanasia has been on the minds of numerous governments around the world recently. Most notably, the upper house of parliament in The Netherlands voted by a clear majority to decriminalize euthanasia in April, making it the first country in the world to do so.

Elsewhere, Belgium has agreed on a draft law to legalize the practice, subject to parliamentary approval, and a politician from the New South Wales Greens Party in Australia, Ian Cohen, also proposed a bill stating that euthanasia should be legal for terminally ill patients who want a comfortable death. In the US, legislation in the state of Oregon allows physician-assisted suicide.

Commenting on the issue, newly elected WMA Chairman, Dr. Randolph Smoak, noted that "We are a profession whose sole aim is to preserve life, and to help people get well when they are sick, and helping people as they enter the dying process is not something we probably emphasise as much as we should."

"Certainly with the frustrations that we have seen in the US with end-of-life care, we can see how some members of the public have seen fit to promote alternatives. We do believe that as a profession we can do a better job in end-of-life care and that will more or less alleviate, or remove entirely, the need to have euthanasia," he said.

"The WMA has had policies for many years that stood in opposition to euthanasia. This has been reaffirmed by the statement that we have completed today," Dr. Smoak said, adding that "it was very clear that that the nations around the world represented here are unequivocally opposed to euthanasia, with one exception."

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd.