A judge in California has pulled the plug on the state’s assisted-suicide law, and while Attorney General Xavier Becerra is expected to continue to fight for the provisions that can be used to take peoples’ lives, the decision offers a reprieve from that process for now.
Alexandra Snyder, of Life Legal Defense Foundation, said, “We are thrilled by today’s ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients. The court made it very clear that assisted suicide has nothing to do with increasing access to health care and that hijacking the special session to advance an unrelated agenda is impermissible.”
Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia said doctors do have standing to bring challenges on behalf of their patients, especially in this case, as terminally ill patients would face significant difficulties filing their own lawsuits against the act.
The sponsors of the state’s End of Life Option Act had introduced the bill in a special session of the legislature convened by Gov. Jerry Brown to address Medicaid funding shortfalls, services for the disabled, and in-home health support services.
Life Legal attorneys said they appeared in court to argue the law, which decriminalizes physician-assisted suicide, is not related or even incidental to the stated purpose of the special session and that suicide is not health care.
Ottolia agreed, deciding the law “is not a matter of health care funding” and “not within the scope of access to healthcare services.”
Life Legal filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings in March 2018, arguing that the law should be overturned because the manner in which it was passed is unconstitutional.
And they argued from the outset that suicide has nothing to do with the provision of health services.
Becerra claimed legislation passed during special sessions is presumed to be constitutional.
At the hearing was Stephanie Packer, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
“After the End of Life Option Act was implemented, Stephanie’s insurance company denied coverage of life-saving chemotherapy treatment, but said it would pay for ‘aid-in-dying’ drugs, which would cost $1.20,” Life Legal said.
She has testified several times against assisted suicide.
“I am so grateful that California’s assisted-suicide law was overturned today. The bill’s proponents tout dignity, choice, compassion, and painlessness. I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Choice is really an illusion for a very few. For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable ‘treatment’ that is offered them,” she said.
Euthanasia activists had claimed that assisted suicide is, in fact, health care.
The bill was shoved through the legislative process during a special session called by Gov. Jerry Brown.