Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them.
Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option.
But physicians across the state say the conversations that health workers are having with patients are leading to patients’ fears and needs around dying being addressed better than ever before. They say the law has improved medical care for sick patients, even those who don’t take advantage of it.
“One doctor said we should be able to order the End of Life Option Act without the drugs,” said Dr. Neil Wenger, director of the UCLA Health Ethics Center. “It really has created a new standard for how we ought to be helping people at the end of life.” . . . [Full text]
Medical leaders at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena voted behind closed doors this week for the facility’s hundreds of doctors and affiliated personnel to opt out of California’s assisted suicide law, which goes into effect June 9.
If the proposed amendment to the hospital’s medical rules is approved by the board of directors this month, Huntington will become one of the largest non-religious medical institutions statewide to turn its back on a law that Gov. Jerry Brown called “a comfort” to anyone “dying in prolonged and excruciating pain.”
The End of Life Option Act allows doctors, medical groups and hospitals to opt out of the law’s guidelines for assisting the terminally ill achieve a dignified end. Most, if not all, religious hospitals are expected to reject the law.
It’s unclear at this point if Huntington is an outlier among secular facilities or representative of a wave of opt-outs to be revealed by month’s end. The California Hospital Assn. was unable to provide an estimate for the number of institutions considering a similar move. . . [Full Text]