Over the past few years, proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have been pushing the American Medical Association (AMA) to amend its Code of Ethics as it pertains to the practice.

In 2016, a delegation from Oregon asked the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) to recommend that the AMA adopt a neutral stance on physician “aid in dying.” In 2017, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser approached the Council recommending that it develop a distinction between suicide and “aid in dying.” Many were concerned that amending the AMA’s Code of Ethics would be a major step for those advancing a progressive end-of-life agenda.

But after considering these recommendations, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs recently released report 5-A-18, and the answer from the Council was a resounding “no.” While the Council’s refusal to take a neutral stance on PAS was pleasantly surprising, perhaps the most noteworthy takeaway from the report was the forthright way the questions of linguistic engineering were answered.

Through and through, the report called out and rejected attempts to alter the terminology made by proponents to make PAS more palatable to the American people. The report says:

Proponents of physician participation often use language that casts the practice in a positive light. “Death with dignity” foregrounds patients’ values and goals, while “aid in dying” invokes physicians’ commitment to succor and support.

Using softer euphemisms for PAS is one thing that proponents have done quite well in the public square. And it’s no wonder why proponents of PAS would want to alter the language. It was George Orwell who first articulated the importance of controlling the language when attempting to manipulate or change the mind of the masses. The idea is simple. The language we use to discuss certain issues is critical. It shapes the conversation, and thus those who control the language control the conversation. If a person in a dispute can get his opponent to use language of his choosing, he has already effectively won the argument because his opponent has conceded linguistic ground.

Proponents of PAS in the United States have been working overtime to obscure and change the language around this issue. Oregon, the first state to legalize PAS, titled its law “The Death With Dignity Act.” Other states have used different names, but the goal is the same: make the practice more palatable. Here in Nebraska, for example, the bill to legalize PAS was titled “The Patient Choice at the End of Life Act.” The language shift has happened in other areas as well. One of the leading advocacy groups promoting national legalization of PAS is Compassion and Choices. By using words such as “choice,” “dignity” and “compassion,” proponents steer the conversation away from the fact that the practice involves doctors helping patients commit suicide.

Changing the language may get more Americans on board, but it does not change the nature of the practice. Thankfully, the Council saw through these deceptive efforts:

In the council’s view, despite its negative connotations… the term “physician assisted suicide” describes the practice with the greatest precision. Most importantly, it clearly distinguishes the practice from euthanasia. The terms “aid in dying” or “death with dignity” could be used to describe either euthanasia or palliative/ hospice care at the end of life and this degree of ambiguity is unacceptable for providing ethical guidance.

Full story at Crisis Magazine.