OLYMPIA, Wash. – Terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will soon be able to ask their doctors to prescribe them lethal medication in Washington state.
But even though the "Death with Dignity" law takes effect Thursday, people who might seek the life-ending prescriptions could find their doctors conflicted or not willing to write them.
Many doctors are hesitant to talk publicly about where they stand on the issue, said Dr. Tom Preston, a retired cardiologist and board member of Compassion & Choices, the group that campaigned for and supports the law.
"There are a lot of doctors, who in principle, would approve or don't mind this, but for a lot of social or professional reasons, they don't want to be involved," he said.
But Preston said discussions about end-of-life issues between doctor and patient will increase because of the new law, and he thinks that as time goes on more and more doctors who don't have a religious or philosophical opposition will be open to participating.
"It will be a cultural shift," he said.
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