Physician-assisted suicide ruled out in Africa

A regional meeting of the World Medical Association (WMA) has ruled out euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as options available for terminally ill patients in Africa.

The Nigerian Medical Association, which hosted a regional meeting of WMA, comprising five national associations from Africa, resolved that mercy killing of any sort as a practice in medicine was “in conflict with the physician’s oath” which prohibits physicians from using medical knowledge to violate human rights and liberties even under threat.

In a communiqué delivered by NMA president, Dr Mike Ogirima, the associations said, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia “contradict African cultural beliefs and values.”

The resolution came after medical associations explored euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and palliative care as options in end-of-life issues in health care.

Most African countries have no policies on end-of-life care, apart from Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Botswana, which have initiatives in palliative care.

The associations opted for strengthening palliative care instead, calling for national policies, increased funding and creation of national and regional palliative care centres.

“Many African countries are characterized by poor health care institutions, poor health care finances, with very low government budgets for health care, which also affect adversely end-of-life issues and palliative care,” the associations noted.


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