Members of the New Zealand Medical Association are being urged to stop the 136-year-old institution from going into liquidation.
The NZMA board is recommending that members vote to end the professional body as it faces financial strife because of falling support.
The board met on Thursday and unanimously agreed to recommend that members vote to liquidate the association at its upcoming annual general meeting, board chair Dr Alistair Humphrey said in a statement.
"The financial position of the association is unsustainable," he said.
"Two decades of stagnant membership and the accumulation of deficits has reached the point where we must dissolve, or we will soon become insolvent and unable to meet our obligations to staff and creditors."
Health commentator Ian Powell said it would leave a huge gap because the NZMA did a lot of work behind the scenes making submissions on important health issues.
Powell said it came as a shock.
"This has always had the potential to be a voice for the profession as a whole. And once it goes, it's going to be very difficult to put something back together in its place.
"So that's why I think that if there'd been a frank discussion, something might have been able to be done, but they just seem to have kind of given up."
He said NZMA members should fight to save it.
"There are issues around, but it doesn't really matter what branch of medicine you practice, or where you work, or how you are employed.
"If people believe that voice is still important, I think it's really vital that they start discussing it amongst themselves and develop a strategy sort of bottom-up on how they might approach this."
Powell said if the NZMA failed, it would leave a huge gap.
Humphrey said the board had been trying to come up with ways to solve the issues faced by the NZMA.
"Serial NZMA boards and staff have made many attempts over the last few years to come up with a way to save the association - to pare back, to undertake a merger, to raise revenue or trim costs somewhere or another," he said.
Powell said he felt the organisation has been floundering for years.
"Unfortunately its elected leadership has not really woken up to that reality and tried to do something about it.
"However, it's a step backwards to lose the medical association, and I do think under the circumstances, although it's no doubt they're in a very vulnerable position, was premature nevertheless."
Humphrey said the NZMA was responsible for many medical assets for New Zealand.
"The NZMA has a proud record of service to the New Zealand medical community and to the country as a whole since 1886.
"We are producers and custodians of several important assets that will need to be carried on by other organisations - including the New Zealand Medical Journal, the Code of Ethics, the Benevolent Fund and New Zealand's membership of the World Medical Association.
"We are in discussions with other sector organisations on how to pass these assets on and will share more in due course."
The NZMA constitution requires that a resolution to liquidate is approved by members at a general meeting and confirmed at a follow-up meeting.
A resolution will be presented to members on May 30, and if approved, there will then be another meeting in late June to confirm the decision.