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Review of the AMA’s policy on assisted dying – an update

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I would like to take this opportunity to update members on the review of AMA policy on assisted dying (euthanasia and physician assisted suicide) and outline the next steps in the review process.

As highlighted previously, the AMA is conducting the review as part of our five- year policy review cycle, employing a variety of methods to consult with members during the process.

In November 2015, we provided AMA members with an opportunity to submit open-ended comments on the current AMA policy (the Position Statement on the Role of the Medical Practitioner in End of Life Care 2007. Amended 2014) through Australian Medicine.

We received more than 50 submissions from medical students and junior doctors, through to senior and retired doctors. Both female and male doctors were well represented, as well as a range of specialties.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the scope of opinions expressed in the submissions was diverse – ranging from those who strongly oppose, to those who strongly support, assisted dying. However, I never cease to be amazed by new intelligent insights into this complex and vexed issue.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who took the time and effort to provide us with a submission – many were incredibly detailed, and all were heartfelt; in particular, those members who described their own personal experience when facing terminal illness.

The next step in the consultation process is to survey members’ attitudes to assisted dying.

In the near future, we will send out a survey electronically to every AMA member asking a range of questions on assisted dying. Your views are important – I strongly encourage all members to fill out the survey, the results of which will be used to inform the review. If there are any members unable to receive an electronic copy of the survey, please contact the Ethics Section of the Federal AMA at ethics@ama.com.au or by phoning (02) 6270 5400.

In addition to the member survey, on 27 May I will be chairing a Q&A session on assisted dying at the 2016 AMA National Conference in Canberra.

The session will be moderated by Tony Jones, known to most of you as the host of ABC TV’s Q&A program. There will be a panel of between four and six medical practitioners, equally representing those known to oppose or support assisted dying.

Our aim is to provide doctors, in particular AMA members, with the opportunity to have an intra-professional discussion on assisted dying as it relates directly to the medical profession.

While anyone can attend and observe the session, audience questions will be limited to medical practitioners. Please refer to the AMA’s website for information regarding conference registration and session updates at nationalconference.

Following this, we will update members on the survey results and National Conference deliberations as well as the next steps in the review process.

If you have any questions in relation to the review, please send them to ethics@ama.com.au