Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Culture of Death California Update

California Panel OKs Right-to-Die Measure.

Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A legislative committee Tuesday approved a measure modeled after an Oregon law that would allow the terminally ill to end their lives with a doctor's assistance.

The bill cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee after more than a dozen hours of testimony and debate spread over three hearings. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and finally to the floor. The Senate would then have to take up the legislation.

Euphemism Watch:

Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Berg said the bill was "about autonomy."

"It's about providing a safe venue for patients to have a conversation with their doctors, a conversation that a huge majority of Californians say they would like to be able to have if they are ever put in a position to do so," she said.

Ask Terri Schiavo about safe venues.

What unadulterated nonsense.

Fortunately, there are still some doctors who understand the original Hippocratic Oath:

Opponents said the bill could lead to the killing of patients who weren't terminal or didn't want to die.

"Physician-assisted suicide is the wrong answer to the right question," said Dr. Robert Miller, former president of the Association of Northern California Oncologists. "The focus should be on doing everything we can to improve care at the end of life."

Diagnoses of terminal illness can be inaccurate, he added.

Of course this AP story does not reference any of the controversy over Terri Schiavo's diagnosis as context (more context from CodeBlueBlog can be found here and here).

That might, well, provide context.

Not only do we have a living Constitution, we also have a Hippocratic Oath redefined annually by vote (emphasis added below).

The trend among many medical schools, though, is to have each graduating class hammer out an oath of its own that reflects the professional ideals of its members.

“Each class is asked to think about what the Hippocratic Oath means, what its purpose is, and how they want to articulate that,” says Nancy Angoff, M.D., assistant dean for student affairs at the Yale University School of Medicine. “There is much discussion about the nature of the oath as something that connects students to the practice of medicine and the physicians who have come before them. In that regard, they want to keep it reminiscent of the original oath as the first ethical grounding of their profession,” she says. “But at the same time they are not willing to accept all of the original words because they don’t believe all of them and they feel their integrity is at stake.”

Dr. Angoff says the democratic process of deciding on the oath’s specific wording forces students to reflect on their definition of an ethical physician. Some years the oath is simply an altered version of the original; other years, it is the unique declaration of a specific class. . . .

With so many differently worded oaths claiming the name of Hippocrates, Dr. Lasagna sticks to his suggestion that a competition be held to choose a common oath for all new physicians. “To the extent that we have everybody going their own way, we lose that thread of commonality preserved in the original Hippocratic Oath,” he remarks. “And I think that’s a pity.”

A pity indeed.