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ETH-034: End of Life Choices by Patients

End of Life Choices by Patients: The Wisconsin Medical Society believes that:

  1. The principle of patient autonomy requires that physicians must respect the decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment of a patient who possesses decision-making capacity. Life sustaining treatment is any medical treatment that serves to prolong life without reversing the underlying medical condition. Life-sustaining treatment includes, but is not limited to, mechanical ventilation, renal dialysis, chemotherapy, antibiotics, and artificial nutrition and hydration.
  2. There is no ethical distinction between withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining treatment.
  3. Physicians have an obligation to relieve pain and suffering and to promote the dignity and autonomy of dying patients in their care. This includes providing effective palliative treatment even though it may foreseeably hasten death. More research must be pursued, examining the degree to which palliative care reduces the requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  4. Physicians must not perform euthanasia or participate in assisted suicide. A more careful examination of the issue is necessary. Support, comfort, respect for patient autonomy, good communication and adequate pain control may decrease dramatically the public demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide. In certain carefully defined circumstances, it would be humane to recognize that death is certain and suffering is great. However, the societal risks of involving physicians in medical interventions to cause patients’ deaths is too great to condone euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide at this time.
  5. The Wisconsin Medical Society supports continued research into and education concerning pain management. (HOD, 0416)