The California Medical Association announced today it will take a "neutral" position on a bill, SB 128, which would allow terminally ill patients in California to end their lives. The group had previously opposed the measure.
Molly Weedn is with the CMA. She says the organization has noticed a shift over the years in how people talk about the subject and decided to reexamine its decades old opposition.
"While we still support the notion of palliative and hospice care and end of life option conversations between physicians and patients," she says, "it’s ultimately up to the individual physician and their patient in that relationship to decide what’s best in determining their end of life."
Weedn says the group is staying neutral because there’s still no unanimity about the issue within the medical community.
"We wanted to really bolster the language that makes it clear in the legislation that this is voluntary," she says. "That physicians are not required to participate in physician aid in dying. That if they don’t want to discuss those end of life option routes with their patients they don’t have to do that."
Family Physician Walter Newman is one of the members who opposes physician aid in dying. Newman, who’s also associated with Californians Against Assisted Suicide, says "killing" a patient is not right.
"And the bill, SB 128, tries to tiptoe around good ways to do it,” he says. "But as I’ve said many other times, there’s no right way to do a wrong thing.”
Toni Broaddus is with Compassion and Choices, which supports the bill. She says this is "a huge moment" for the measure.
"Historically in California the CMA has been one of the strongest opponents to legislation that would allow mentally competent, terminally ill Californians to access medical aid in dying,” she says.
Broaddus says the CMA’s position change could convince some lawmakers to ultimately support the measure.
The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations committee.