California doctor opens practice to help people die


In anticipation of California's new right-to-die law, which goes into effect June 9, a Berkeley, California physician has set up a practice that will focus on patients considering using the End of Life Option Act, according to The Mercury News.

Lonny Shavelson, M.D., 64, a former emergency department doctor, has opened what may be the only specialized medical practice in the Bay Area, and possibly the state of California, focused solely on patients seeking the assisted suicide option under the new law, the newspaper said.

Shavelson will consult with both patients and other physicians about the law which allows mentally competent, terminally ill patients to ask doctors for a prescription for medication to end their life when they choose. Physicians have the right to choose whether to assist patients. 

Shavelson has opened his practice, Bay Area End of Life Options, which will help people who cannot find a doctor to help them, the publication said. "There will be a larger demand from patients who want to consider physician aid-in-dying than there are physicians who will be willing to work with them on it," Shavelson told the newspaper. But Shavelson said he plans to talk to patients about why they want a prescription to end their lives and how he might address their fears in ways that preclude taking a lethal dose of pills.

Physicians--and particularly oncologists--in California are grappling with the new law, which has raised ethical and moral questions about whether it is right for a physician to help a patient die, as FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.