San Francisco Marin Medical Society Blog

California Medical Association Removes Opposition to Physician Aid in Dying Bill; SFMS Advocacy Initiates New Discussion on PAD

The California Medical Association (CMA) announced in today’s San Francisco Chronicle that it has become the first state medical association in the nation to change its position on the long-debated issue of physician-assisted dying (PAD).

SFMS has been a long-time advocate on this difficult topic. Our delegation asked CMA to consider neutrality at least three times in the past 15 years. The latest SFMS effort was a letter submitted to the CMA board in January 2015 urging a more open consideration, and after much debate the CMA Council on Legislation voted overwhelmingly in favor of neutrality.

By removing decades-old organizational policy, CMA has eliminated its historic opposition and is now officially neutral on SB 128 (Monning/Wolk), the End of Life Option Act.

“As physicians, we want to provide the best care possible for our patients. However, despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we’ve made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn’t always enough,” said CMA President Luther F. Cobb, MD. “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. 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. Protecting that physician-patient relationship is essential.”

CMA's amendments to SB 128 have been accepted by the authoring Senators, and are partly based upon clinical guidelines/safeguards developed at SFMS (and published in the April issue of San Francisco Medicine). Physicians would be explicitly protected from any sanctions for either participating or declining to participate in PAD.

Click here for a full statement from the authors of SB 128. 

Click here for the Chronicle's coverage of this historic development.

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