Assisted Suicide and the Patient - Physician Relationship

This article was published on the Repeal Act 39 website.

By Dr Robert S Emmons

Dr Robert Emmons

Dr Robert Emmons

I am a psychiatrist with twenty-five years of experience in private practice. I hold the rank of Part-Time Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine, where for many years, I taught the practice of ethics and psychoanalytic psychotherapy to residents and medical students. I am a past chair of the Ethics Committee of the Vermont District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association.

I am not here to tell my neighbors how to live or end their lives, nor am I here to tell my colleagues how to practice. Rather, I am here to inform you about the clinical problems that are created as the State of Vermont gets involved.

The Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association prohibits physician involvement in prescribing or advising on lethal prescriptions or any other form of patient suicide: “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” I do not belong to the AMA, but I do subscribe to this principle of ethics. My code of ethics does not compel me to interfere in any way with the choices of others about how their lives may end; my code of ethics applies only to my own actions as a physician. I am not here to tell my neighbors how to live or end their lives, nor am I here to tell my colleagues how to practice.

Link to the full article