Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(3) August 2021

The World Medical Association and Euthanasia

Dr Adrian Treloar

Adrian TreloarThe World Medical Association was founded in the wake of World War II. Constitutionally there­fore, its charter was utterly opposed to the murder of so many millions of people during that war. We can often forget that in the Nuremberg trials many other crimes were identified as crimes against humanity. The Nazi regime used many methods to promote its idea of a so-called “Master Race”. In addition to killing the old and vulnerable, these methods included the forced sterilisation and abortion of Slavs and many others. So it was the in 1948 the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stated that “The Declaration recognises, in order, the right to life, then freedom [liberty] and finally security of person. The right to life is logically the basis for the enjoyment of all other rights and freedoms. Everyone has the right to life as a “member of the human family.

Alongside that, the WMA recognised a profound duty of conscientious objection where doctors or other people believe that human rights and especially (according to the to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) the right to life, is being infringed.

It is therefore deeply concerning that, yet again , the World Medical Association is consulting on a modification to the International Code of Medical Ethics. In the revised draft, the issue of conscience appears hugely diluted. Referral to colleagues is required for those who do refuse to kill their patients. The draft text proposed states that “Physicians have an ethical obligation to minimise disruption to patient care. Conscientious objection must only be considered if the individual patient is not discriminated against or disadvantaged, the patient’s health is not endangered, and undelayed continuity of care is ensured through effective and timely referral to another qualified physician.”

The WMA appears to be moving substantially away from its long held position of opposition to Euthanasia and its defence of the fundamental right to life.

The Catholic Medical Association submission to the WMA on its consultation, is printed in this issue of the CMQ. It is essential reading.[1]

Of course, alongside such moves at the WMA, the legalisation of euthanasia in several countries is deeply challenging. That is especially so in Canada where doctors are required to refer to colleagues if they are not willing to kill their own patients. The CMA submission to the WMA highlights the nursing home in Canada which was forced to close simply because it refused to have patients killed on its own premises.

“But isn’t it still all ok really? “

If there is any doubt of how serious the situation is and how vulnerable patients truly are, you should also read the paper by Alex Schadenberg on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada.[2] In the absence of a definition of death being expected in the “foreseeable future” euthanasia is unregulated, with sky-rocketing numbers of people being killed and physicians who are denied the right and duty of conscientious objections.

How tragic it is to read of the husband who was killed, on a Thursday, without his wife even knowing that was to happen, while at the same time wondering how he knew he would die on Thursday.
If the World Medical Association moves away from its founding defence of the right to life, many vulnerable, weak, dying, frail vulnerable and elderly people will be at risk - including many who are not dying. We must pray.


  1. CMA (UK). Submission to the World Medical Association Consultation regarding the revised draft of the International Code of Meical Ethics, 25.05.2021 pp 18-23
  2. Schadenburg Alex. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada. Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71 (3) August 2021 pp 14-15