California Medical Association Changes Aid-in-Dying Position

Medical association changes stance after Brittany Maynard case.

ByABC News
May 20, 2015, 12:10 PM

— -- The California Medical Association, which for decades has been against a law allowing physicians to help patients with terminal illnesses die, announced today that it has become the first state medical association in the U.S. to change this position.

"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 Dr. Luther Cobb. "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."

The organization in Brittany Maynard's home state is now neutral on aid-in-dying laws and says the decision should be up to the patient and physician to make on a case-by-case basis.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed with a terminal brain tumor, made national news last fall when she announced that she was moving to Oregon where it was legal for a doctor to help her die on her own terms. Since her death on Nov. 1, 2014, the End of Life Option Act has been introduced in California, and at least one terminal patient has sued state officials for the right.

"With deep appreciation, I thank the California Medical Association for showing its leadership and wisdom in adopting its neutral policy stance," Maynard's husband, Dan Diaz, said in a statement to ABC News. "It supports Brittany's position: 'This decision is mine to make, mine alone.'"

Compassion and Choices, the nonprofit aid-in-dying advocacy group, applauded CMA's announcement and called it a "major milestone."

But Californians Against Assisted Suicide continues to oppose the End of Life Option Act, or Senate Bill 128, it said in a statement to ABC News. The coalition said it includes groups such as the Association of Northern California Oncologists, the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and that it last week sent an opposition letter to legislators.

ABC News' Charli James contributed to this report.