Updated May 15, 2018, courtesy of CalMatters.org
A Riverside County Superior Court judge Tuesday threw out California’s landmark law allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients, just shy of its two-year anniversary.
Judge Daniel A. Ottolia, an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said his order would take effect in five days. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra intends to appeal.
The history: The Legislature approved the End of Life Options Act in 2015. It took effect in June 2016. Although the California Medical Association was neutral, some physicians sued, contending the Legislature failed to follow proper procedure. Ottolia agreed, and didn’t decide the broader question of whether the law violates the constitutional rights of terminally ill patients.
Los Angeles attorney Stephen G. Larson, who filed the suit: “This legislation was rushed through, so a lot of protective measures were not included. … We think there are any number of instances where people have been pressured into suicide.”
Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, a Stockton Democrat who authored the bill and is a former hospice worker: “There are people who are looking at that last sacred journey, thinking this is an option. Now someone is telling them that it’s not.”
Numbers: Since 2016, the latest report says 173 physicians have prescribed aid-in-dying drugs to 191 patients, 111 of whom died from the drugs. Some died without taking the medication.
Politics: A 2015 poll showed 65 percent of Californians supported aid-in-dying legislation. The bill passed the Senate 23-15 and the Assembly 44-35. If courts of appeal don’t overturn the Riverside decision, the Legislature almost surely would pass the bill again.
The California End Of Life Option Act took effect on June 9, 2016.
The law authorizes the practice of medical aid in dying, also known as death with dignity, which is NOT assisted suicide, for terminally ill, mentally capable adults who request from their physician and qualify for a prescription for life-ending medication. Click here for more information.