California Governor Jerry Brown signed an assisted suicide bill into law on Monday. This makes California the fifth U.S. state to allow physician-assisted suicide.

Gov. Brown, who is an ex-Catholic seminarian, said in a public statement that he was not sure what he would do if he were suffering from a fatal and excruciatingly painful condition. However, he said that knowing assisted suicide was an option through the bill he was signing would be a comfort to him. He also said that he did not want to deny this right to others.

Similar to 21-Year-Old Oregon Law

The California law mirrors another law that was passed in the state of Oregon 21 years ago. The Oregon law allows physicians to give lethal drugs to patients who request them, if they are terminally ill. A terminally ill patient is someone who has six months or less to live, as defined under the law. There are some additional prerequisites that need to be met before a patient will be administered the lethal drugs. For example, the patients need to receive counseling about palliative and hospice care, and the patients have to be deemed competent enough to make independent decisions themselves.

Vermont and Washington have also enacted legislation that mirrors Oregon's law. Physician-assisted death is permitted in the state of Montana as well, due to a Montana Supreme Court ruling that permits the practice.

Organized Medicine Traditionally Disapproved of Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Generally, organized medicine has been against the practice of doctor-assisted suicide because it sees it as a violation of the doctors' creed to "do no harm." The California Medical Association (CMA) used to maintain the same opinion; however, last June, the CMA adopted a neutral stance during deliberations on California's doctor-assisted suicide bill.

A survey that was recently conducted by Medscape revealed that physicians are beginning to favor doctor-assisted suicide more and more. Last year, 54 percent of doctors surveyed were in favor of the practice. Given the change of heart, perhaps other states will soon be passing new legislation to permit physician-assisted suicide as well.

What do you think? Should doctor-assisted suicide be allowed?