Judge Overturns California's End of Life Option Act

Clay Curtis
May 17, 2018

A judge ordered a halt Tuesday to California's right-to-die law for terminally ill patients, ruling that it was illegally taken up and passed during a special legislative session devoted to health care funding.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that his office "strongly disagreed" with the judge's finding and would seek an expedited appeal.

Compassion and Choices, the country's largest aid-in-dying organization, criticized Ottolia's decision.

Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit advocacy group for end-of-life options that made the video featuring Maynard, estimated that 504 California adults had received life-ending drugs from their doctors between the law's passage and June 2017.

Even if the state loses in its appeal, California's legislature would likely pass an identical piece of legislation while avoiding the procedural issues cited in Ottolia's ruling. "Choice is really an illusion for a very few", Stephanie Packer said, according to the Los Angeles archdiocese's Angelus News.

"For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable "treatment" that is offered them", Ms. Packer said in a statement.

"The act itself was rushed through the special session of the legislature, and it does not have any of the safeguards one would expect to see in a law like this", Stephen G. Larson, head counsel for a group of doctors who filed a legal challenge to the law, told the Sacramento Bee. Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.

Lawmakers OK'd the controversial legislation during a special session convened by Democratic Gov.

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The initial legislative effort to pass an assisted suicide bill failed in committee during the 2015 regular season, following months of media attention to the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with an aggressive brain tumor who moved from California to OR in order to take advantage of legal physician-assisted suicide there. She said assisted suicide is often framed as health care, but "nothing could be further from the truth".

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, who backed the bill, charged that the judge's decision interfered with Californians in the process of securing the lethal drugs under the law.

"I have carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by a number of doctors, religious leaders and those who champion disability rights", he wrote.

"They're trying to take away the option of a terminally ill person, like my wife was, to have a peaceful dying process instead of what, in her case, was a brain tumor that would have tortured her to death", Diaz told TIME on Wednesday.

California is one of seven states—the others being Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Hawaii—as well as the District of Columbia, that have enacted laws authorizing assisted suicide. Opponents argue that unscrupulous caregivers could pressure vulnerable patients to take their own lives.

A county judge invalidated California's physician-assisted suicide law Tuesday (May 15) but did not rule the lethal practice unconstitutional.

The legislation in California features a number of requirements terminally ill patients must meet to the satisfaction of two separate physicians. But in comments during last year's hearing quoted by opponents, Ottolia said the right-to-die law did not appear to be "related to improving the health of Californians", Brown's stated overall objective for the session.

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