California doctors won’t fight assisted suicide bill

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The California Medical Association has become the first state medical association in the country to drop opposition to what has been widely known as “physician assisted suicide.”

The medical group made the decision in response to a bill in the state Legislature that would allow doctors to prescribe fatal doses of drugs to some terminally ill patients. The group is now neutral on the bill, instead of actively opposing it.

The California Medical Assn., like others around the country, has long opposed “physician-assisted suicide,” saying it violated doctor’s ethical and moral obligations. The group has dropped its opposition to the bill because of amendments that provide more protections for doctors and hospitals that don’t want to participate.

The End of Life Option Act would require two California physicians to agree that a mentally competent patient has six months or less to live before prescribing life-ending drugs. People who decide to end their lives would have to administer the drugs

Although the decision applies only to the bill in question, the Medical Association’s move is seen by some as a significant shift in at least some doctor’s views about assisted suicide. The legislation is sponsored by Democratic state Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk, who called the change of position “a major breakthrough.”

The bill is still opposed by some religious groups, like the Catholic Church, and disability rights groups.