When the World Medical Association (WMA) was formed in the 1940s, it was as an ethical bulwark against the extremes of Nazi medicine. It has subsequently maintained a strong support for freedom of conscience and active opposition to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. (1)
However, at the WMA General Assembly in early October in Reykjavik, two motions were put forward that challenged this. The first was a move to effectively weaken its stance on conscientious objection to abortion by changing some key wording in its statement on abortion. (2) The second was a move brought forward by the Canadian and Royal Dutch Medical Associations (CMA and RDMA) to remove its opposition to assisted dying. (3)
The former came as part of a routine re-evaluation of its position statement, and was challenged by CMF's global umbrella body, the International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA) in an open letter calling on the General Assembly to not loosen its wording around protection of conscience. (4) Sadly, the clause was amended as originally proposed. (5)
However, in a strange turnaround of events, the CMA withdrew its proposal on assisted dying, and then resigned its membership of the WMA, citing the apparent plagiarism of large sections of the new Director General's acceptance speech to the General Assembly. (6) In the meantime, the German delegation offered a 'compromise' resolution, which was roundly opposed, but is to be further considered by the WMA in spring 2019. (7)
So, while freedom of conscience has yet again been subtly eroded, for now at least the global medical community has not weakened its opposition to all forms of euthanasia.
Review by Steve Fouch, CMF Head of Communications