After long years of opposing the idea of assisted suicide, the California Medical Association announced on May 20th that it has reviewed its stance, becoming neutral on the matter.
With only a handful of states that offer terminally ill patients the possibility to make a choice regarding their time of death, California is aiming to join the ranks by making the practice legal.
The first statement coming from a state medical association was issued among reignited debate over physician-assisted suicide after brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard passed away during the previous year.
In January, Senators Loik Wolk, D-Davis and Bill Moning, D-Carmel authored and introduced SB-129 or the End of Life Option Act that stands as the basis of ending state opposition to physician-assisted suicide. In short, it would allow physicians to administer lethal doses of drugs to those patients who have at most six months to live and wish to end their life.
The Wolk-Moning bill passed one panel in the state Senate. At the time, it is held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Against this background, the California Medical Association decided to lessen its stance amidst fierce opposition. At the same time, officials emphasized that the new position entails that an understanding is made between the physician and the patient on whether they want to participate in the End of Life Option Act or not. Neither one, nor the other bears any obligations.
If a physician refuses to administer the lethal dose of drugs, they have every right to do so. They can refer the patient to a different physician that might be able to comply with the patient’s wishes.
Increasingly, a majority of citizens from the state of California agree with doctor-assisted suicide.
In Oregon, the legislation that makes the practice legal passed 18 years ago. Until now, only 800 patients requested that their lives be ended before the terminal deadline creeps in on them. California citizens want the same. Washington and Vermont also have laws that permit physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
The American Medical Association is one among many who are against the will of the majority of Californians and outspoken against the Wolk-Moning bill.
The American Medical Association continues to oppose physicians taking part in assisted suicide grounding their reasoning in the fact that the practice is fundamentally against a physician’s role as a healer. At the same time they argued that passing such a bill and introducing legislation to decriminalize assisted suicide posses serious risks to society.
Other carry the opposition flag further, citing concerns like the family of the terminal-ill patient convincing him or her to undergo the procedure just to minimize medical costs or receive a larger inheritance.
The same reasoning applies to insurance companies which would, no doubt, refuse to cover medical treatment to increase the patient’s quality of life during those last months and would instead redirect funding to a cheaper option, that of physician-assisted suicide.
Other such concerns were listed. But experience in the other three states that legalized the procedure tells a different story. No abuses of the sort were made and few terminally ill patients really took this path. For them, it meant the world.
And it seems the California Medical Association learned of this fact. In 1987, it labeled the assisted suicide as unethical. Later, in 1990 it condemned voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Now, it chose to remain neutral on the matter, which is a bold and hopeful move.
Image Source: healthcareglobal.com
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