Calif. physicians wary as aid-in-dying law goes into effect

As a new law that allows terminally ill patients in California to take medications to end their lives, many physicians are wondering if they would ever actually write such a prescription, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"We have always, up till now, been able to say we will never hasten a death," said Neil Wenger, MD, an internal medicine physician and director of the UCLA Health Ethics Center, according to the report. "Suddenly, that bright line is not so bright."

Dr. Wenger added that the Hippocratic Oath does not only say physicians shouldn't harm patients, but it specifically forbids them from providing the means to kill someone. His stance on the matter is common within the medical community in California. While Dr. Wenger accepts that physician-aided death is now legal, he said he is unlikely to participate himself.

Medical experts predict the practice of prescribing life-ending drugs for terminally ill patients will be a marginalized practice, with few patients requesting such medications and few physicians prescribing them.

"For most of us this may be a once or twice in a lifetime, or in a career, situation," Jay Lee, MD, head of the California Academy of Family Physicians, told the Los Angeles Times.

When the End of Life Option Act officially becomes law Thursday, California will be the fifth state in the U.S. to allow physicians to furnish end-of-life drugs for patients with less than six months to live, according to the report.

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