California Medical Group Issues Guidance on Physician Aid In Dying

The California Medical Association issued a 15-page document that aims to answer physician and patient questions about the recently passed End of Life Option Act.

Following the passage of legislation that allows for physicians to aid in the death of the terminally ill in California, the state’s medical group released new guidance to assist its members and the public.

Passed in October 2015, the End of Life Option Act will take effect in a matter of months, and it allows patients, who are at least 18 years old, to request an aid-in-dying drug so long as a physician has diagnosed them with a terminal disease that is expected to result in death within six months.

Many physicians and patients, however, are still unaware of the specifics of the law and how it will affect healthcare providers and their patients. “We are starting to get a lot of questions both from our members, the individual physicians, but also the public,” Francisco Silva, general counsel of the California Medical Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “They are trying to understand how the act is going to work.”

CMA’s 15-page reference document aims to answer some of those questions, including physician’s legal rights to participate or not participate, as well as reference questions for which there are no answers yet. The group expects the document will be updated as the law goes into effect.

“As physicians, there are a lot of questions about requirements under the new law, required documentation and forms, requests for the drug, consulting physicians and so on,” CMA President Steve Larson, M.D., said in a statement. “There certainly will be areas that evolve as we look to best practices in areas like which drugs to prescribe, but this is a resource to help us all navigate the new landscape.”

CMA was the first state medical group to change its position on assisted suicide last May and engaged in open discussions with the California bill’s coauthors as it moved through the state legislature in 2015.

“Despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we’ve made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn’t always enough,” CMA President Luther F. Cobb, M.D., said in a statement at the time. “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.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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