The California Medical Association (CMA) recently dropped their decades-long opposition to assisted suicide after a bill to legalize assisted suicide was introduced in California.
In their announcement the CMA says they are changing their position on assisted suicide to “neutral,” but the reasoning behind their statement uses the rhetoric of organization’s that promote the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The CMA press release announcing their decision is filled with absurd attempts to gloss over their disregard for the lives of those considering suicide. Their arguments sound eerily like the rhetoric and euphemisms used to defend abortion-on-demand. Assisted suicide is called “physician aid-in-dying” or “end of life options.” The relationship between doctor and patient is exalted. Helping someone kill themselves is equated with methods of “treatment.”
Important issues that previously led the California Medical Association to oppose assisted suicide are not mentioned or refuted. Those issues include the potentials for abuse, the recognition that desire for suicide is not a rational decision, fears that legalizing assisted suicide could undermine hospice care, the uncertainly of medical diagnoses, and how assisted suicide violates the fundamental “do no harm” medical ethos.
On June 4, the California Senate voted in favor of a bill that would legalize assisted suicide in California for terminally-ill patients. If it passes the California State Assembly and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown, California would join the small group of states where assisted suicide is legal: Oregon, Washington and Vermont. In Montana, a judicial ruling prevents doctors from being prosecuted under state law if they help a patient kill themselves.
In 2012, 85 individuals in Oregon used lethal doses of prescription drugs to legally kill themselves. This number has risen nearly every year. The population of Oregon is roughly a tenth of California, meaning if California approves the assisted suicide law and individuals in California seek to kill themselves at the same rate as individuals in Oregon, then nearly 1000 assisted suicides a year could take place in California.
While the California Medical Association is the first state medical association group to announce they are “neutral” on physicians helping to kill patients, only time will time if they are the last as our society grows in its comfort with embracing suicide as an acceptable way to treat the weak and vulnerable.