Position of Medical Associations Worldwide

Worldwide Medical Association - WMA
First and foremost the WMA does not support the deliberate ending of a person's life whether it be by assisted suicide or by euthanasia. Further it encourages members to abstain from such practices if they reside in countries where it is not considered illegal.

New Zealand Medical Association - NZMA
The NZMA is rather vague in its position on euthanasia. While it states it does not accept the concept of euthanasia it will give full consideration to public opinion on the matter. This is perhaps because the NZMA is being influenced by public apprehension about misguided medical intervention and the fear of uncontrollable pain.

The NZMA does encourage the concept of ‘death with dignity' which in layman's terms could mean having an untroubled death. To euthanasia activist groups however this term has a specific meaning and is also known as Physician Assisted Suicide.

It is no coincidence that the Act passed in Oregon which made physician assisted suicide legal was known as the Death with Dignity Act. Under this Act terminally ill Oregon residents to obtain from their physicians and use prescriptions for self-administered, lethal medications.

British Medical Association - BMA
Until July 2005, the BMA was fundamentally opposed to euthanasia as it believed the practice contravenes the role of doctors as healers.

The BMA accepts that patients can refuse life-prolonging treatment and that medication designed to keep them comfortable and pain-free may reduce their lifespan.

While recognising that every person hopes for an easy death, without suffering or dementia or dependence but that their first priority must be to look out for vulnerable people.

The BMA cite two arguments of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics as being relevant to their position:
"Ultimately we do not believe that the arguments are sufficient reason to weaken society's prohibition of intentional killing. That prohibition is the cornerstone of law and of social relationships. It protects each one of us impartially, embodying the belief that all are equal.”
And the second argument:
"We do not think it possible to set secure limits on voluntary euthanasia. Some witnesses told us that to legalise voluntary euthanasia was a discrete step which need have no other consequences. But issues of life and death do not lend themselves to clear definition, and without that it would not be possible to frame adequate safeguards against non-voluntary euthanasia if voluntary euthanasia were to be legalised. It would be next to impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary and that any liberalisation of the law was not abused."
On June 30, 2005, delegates at the BMA annual representative meeting in Manchester voted 58% to 42% against legalising euthanasia but 53% to 47% in favour of adopting a neutral position. The exact working of the latter motion was as follows:

The question of the criminal law in relation to assisted dying is primarily a matter for society and for parliament. The BMA should not oppose legislation that alters the criminal law but should press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who do not wish to be involved in any such procedures.

However, the vote took place in the closing minutes of the four-day conference. Only 174 of the 449 delegates actually voted because many had already departed. The chair chose support for euthanasia first. It lost by 101 to 73. Then withdrawal of opposition was put to the meeting. It carried by 92 to 82. Whether the BMA should maintain its long-standing opposition was never even put to a vote at all. The votes of 19 swinging voters out of 449 changed the course of medical history in Britain.

American Medical Association - AMA
The AMA policy regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide is that it forbids Physicians to take part in these practices. However they believe a thorough inquiry of this issue is necessary.

The AMA believes that with superior palliative care that there would be a decreased demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide. However in some “carefully defined circumstances it would be humane to recognise that death is certain and suffering is great.”

They do no however condone physician intervention to cause patients' deaths as this would place too many risks on the framework of society at the present time.

Canadian Medical Association - CMA
The CMA does not uphold the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide and urges members instead to focus on providing quality palliative care for patients.

Australian Medical Association - AMA
The AMA's position is stated that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have the death of a patient as their primary goal. While still maintaining this position they do acknowledge this is an area where divergent views exist both in medical circles and society in general.

The AMA also acknowledges that while for the majority of severely and terminally ill people pain and suffering can be alleviated there are some cases that go beyond even the best that medical care can offer.