On Wednesday, the California Medical Association (CMA) dropped its decade-long opposition to physician-assisted suicide, arguing that it's just “too personal” of a decision for them to get involved in.
As Senate Bill 128, otherwise known as the End of Life Option Act, makes its way through the California legislature, the CMA will remain entirely neutral.
Backed by Democratic senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk, the bill has been modeled after laws in Oregon and Washington state, which would allow patients with less than six months to live to receive an injection of a pharmaceutical drug while receiving hospice and palliative care.
“The decision to participate in the End of Life Option Act is a very personal one between a doctor and their patient, which is why CMA has removed policy that outright objects to physicians aiding terminally ill patients in end of life options,'' said association President Luther F. Cobb, M.D., in a prepared statement.
“We believe it is up to the individual physician and their patient to decide voluntarily whether the End of Life Option Act is something in which they want to engage,'' he said. “Protecting that physician-patient relationship is essential.”
Cobb also stated these types of bills have historically enhanced palliative care and hospice for terminally ill patients.
“Ultimately, however, it's up to the patient and their physician to choose the course of treatment best suited for the situation — and CMA's new position on physician aid in dying allows for that,” he continued.
Not all physicians groups in California supports CMA's position, saying the bill drastically changes the definition of what a doctor is supposed to do, i.e, save patients and not kill them.
“No amendments can change the fact that 'an act that directly causes the patient's death' is contrary to the role of the physician,'' read a statement released by the Association of Northern California Oncologists and the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California.
“We feel that better palliative care efforts can improve end of life care when death is inevitable, without the guilt and ethical dilemma engendered by SB128.”