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End-of-Life Care Group Praises American Nurses Association for Dropping Opposition to Medical Aid in Dying

ANA Adopts Policy that “nurses have an ethical duty to be knowledgeable about this evolving issue”

Compassion & Choices praised the American Nurses Association (ANA) today for dropping its opposition to medical aid in dying and adopting a new policy that “nurses have an ethical duty to be knowledgeable about this evolving issue.” The ANA made the policy change at its membership meeting on Saturday in Washington, D.C. 

The ANA’s prior position in 2013 “prohibits nurses’ participation in assisted suicide” [the pejorative term for medical aid in dying]. In contrast, the ANA’s new position includes the following recommendations: 

“Nurses…must be comfortable supporting patients with end-of-life conversations, assessing the context of a medical aid in dying request…knowing about aid in dying laws and how those affect practice…remain objective when discussing end-of-life options with patients who are exploring medical aid in dying [and] have an ethical duty to be knowledgeable about this evolving issue.” 

“Patients have always relied on nurses to provide non-judgemental care, while alleviating their suffering; said Kim

Kim Callinan

Kim Callinan, CEO, Compassion & Choices

Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices. “It’s no surprise that the largest national nursing association recognized the growing public demand for medical aid in dying and updated their policy to allow nurses to better support their patients at life’s end.”  

Medical aid in dying has been authorized in Washington, D.C. and nine states: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and starting on Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, in New Jersey and Maine, respectively. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one out of five people (22%) living in the United States and have 40 years of combined experience implementing this medical practice.

“This policy change is very important because nurses play a key role in communicating with terminally ill patients about their end-of-life care options. Often nurses, especially hospice nurses, spend more time with dying patients than doctors,” said Dr. David Grube, national medical director of Compassion & Choices, who wrote prescriptions for medical aid in dying between 1999 and 2012, when he retired as a family physician. “More and more national and state medical societies are adopting similar positions, so this policy change mirrors that trend.”

“Hospice is wonderful in many cases, but it did not help relieve my husband Herb’s horrific suffering from deadly pancreatic cancer,” said operating room nurse Debra Dunn, an ANA member from Paramus, New Jersey, who urged the ANA to revise its policy and successfully advocated for New Jersey to pass the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (see full story at bit.ly/DebraDunnAIDopedvideo). “I thank the ANA for adopting this policy change and it’s especially timely for terminally ill patients in New Jersey since our state’s new medical aid-in-dying law takes effect in only five weeks.”


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