After years of campaigning by elder law advocates for “right to die” laws, California has passed a law that leaves some doctors in a difficult position.
The New York Times recently published one doctor's experience with California’s “Right to Die” or “Dying with Dignity” law in "Should I Help My Patients Die?."
The law permits doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who have fewer than six months left to live. While the California law has been praised by many advocates, doctors are less certain about it.
The problem for doctors is that the Hippocratic Oath requires them to do no harm to their patients. Many doctors feel that hastening a patient’s death is doing harm.
While it can be argued that it cannot be considered harmful if it is something the patient wants, doctors do not necessarily see it that way.
The law permits doctors to prescribe the medication. It does not require them to do so.
Since the doctors can make the choice, it puts them in an uncomfortable position of having to choose whether a patient is going to live or die.
It is possible that other states may follow California’s example and pass such laws.
Reference: New York Times (August 5, 2017) "Should I Help My Patients Die?"