The AMA's Response to Jack Kevorkian

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Jack Kevorkian has been involved in the "assisted suicide" deaths of 26 people (as of this writing). He has become the nation's leading spokesman and practitioner of euthanasia.

What do other doctors thinks of Jack Kevorkian's activities?

On 10 October 1995, the general counsel of the American Medical Association, Kirk Johnson, wrote a letter to Michgan Attorney General Frank Kelley. Here is the full text of this letter:

On behalf of the American Medical Association (AMA), I write today to express our concern for the continuing conduct of Jack Kevorkian, and to urge you to take the necessary steps to bring this episode to a close. I know that your office has taken action against Mr. Kevorkian's medical license, and those results are applauded. By invoking the physician-patient relationship to cloak his actions, Jack Kevorkian perverts the idea of the caring and committed physician, and weakens the public's trust in the medical profession.

The AMA establishes the Code of Ethics for the medical profession. One of the fundamental principles of that code is that physicians must not act with the intent of causing the death of their patients. Physician-assisted suicide is simply incompatible with the physician's role as healer. When faced with patients who are terminally ill and suffering, physicians must relieve their suffering by providing adequate comfort care.

This obligation is paramount: It is ethical for physicians to provide effective pain medication even if the medication may have the side effect of suppressing respiration and hastening death.

Responsible persons may have differing views concerning the propriety of physician-assisted suicide. However, no civilized society should condone assisted suicide as practiced by Jack Kevorkian. Mr Kevorkian's actions are not those of a primary treating physician. Rather, he serves merely as a reckless instrument of death. In our view, Jack Kevorkian poses a great threat to the public, and we ask you to help in bringing these criminal practices to a close.

The AMA will provide all possible assistance to you, whether in the form of expert witnesses, amicus briefs, or otherwise, as you pursue this matter.

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Posted 9 Sep 2000.

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