The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has dropped its longtime opposition to legislation giving terminally ill patients the option of medical aid in dying.
Medical aid in dying (MAID) gives mentally capable, terminally ill individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and self-ingest medication to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.
According to the AAN position paper, the decision “was influenced by the results of a 2014 AAN-sponsored Ethics, Law and Humanities Committee survey that suggested that a notable percentage of AAN members might feel bound by conscience to comply with the wishes of their dying patients for assistance in hastening death” (i.e., medical aid in dying).
The survey showed that more than 70 percent of responding members from states where medical aid in dying is authorized endorsed the practice of “lawful physician hastened death (LPHD) as an “ethically permissible behavior.” In addition, more than 50 percent of these same individuals reported that “they would be willing to assist their patients in hastened death.”
After deliberation of the Committee’s recommendations by the AAN Board of Directors, the AAN position paper states:
” …the AAN has decided to leave the decision of whether to practice or not to practice LPHD to the conscientious judgment of its members acting on behalf of their adult patients dying of neurologic illness.”
Medical aid in dying is authorized in seven U.S. jurisdictions whose collective population represents nearly one in five Americans:
- Washington, DC
These seven jurisdictions have more than 40 years of combined experience of safely using this medical practice.
Numerous other medical and health groups have dropped their opposition to medical aid in dying and adopted a neutral position. They include:
- American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- American Pharmacists Association
- Oncology Nursing Association
- California Medical Association
- California Hospice and Palliative Care Association
- Colorado Medical Society
- Maine Medical Association
- Maryland State Medical Society
- Massachusetts Medical Society
- Medical Society of the District of Columbia
- Minnesota Medical Association
- Missouri Hospice & Palliative Care Association
- Nevada State Medical Association
- Oregon Medical Association
- Vermont Medical Society
- Hospice and Palliative Care Council of Vermont
- Washington State Psychological Association.
In addition, six national medical groups have endorsed medical aid in dying, including:
- American College of Legal Medicine
- American Medical Student Association
- American Medical Women’s Association
- American Nurses Association of California
- American Public Health Association
- GLMA: Healthcare Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
- New York State Academy of Family Physicians.