California State Medical Association Now Neutral on End-of-Life Bill

Setting a nationwide precedent that might influence other states, the California Medical Association on Wednesday announced it has reversed its decades-long opposition to legislation that allows physicians to help seriously-ill patients end their lives. So the powerful lobbying group is now officially neutral on California Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act. The decision to terminate a life “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,” Dr. Luther F. Cobb, a Humboldt County surgeon and the association’s president, said 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.” SB128, sponsored by Sens. Bill Monning (D-Monterey) and Lois Wolk (D-Davis), would permit doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of a pharmaceutical drug to those with less than six months left to live. Modeled after laws in Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state, it would also make the process subject to state oversight. Some physician groups in California, however, immediately denounced the CMA’s policy change.

With CMA’s move, Monning and Wolk on Wednesday appeared to be more confident the bill would make it through both the Senate and Assembly.

“This is a major breakthrough – a game changer,” they said in a joint statement. “This comes as the result of months of productive discussions with physicians, psychiatrists, oncologists, family physicians and palliative care specialists.”

Source/more: Eureka (CA) Times-Standard

David Wingate is an elder law attorney who practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. David Wingate’s practice includes wills, trusts, power of attorneys, livening wills, Medicaid and asset protection.

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