Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia has overturned the state’s assisted suicide law, ruling that the “End of Life Act does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services.”
The Act was first introduced during a special session of legislature convened by Governor Jerry Brown to tackle healthcare issues, such as Medicaid funding and in-home health options.
Governor Brown signed the bill into law in 2016, making it legal for doctors and physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
But motions filed by Life Legal argued that the legislation should not have been passed as part of the special session, as physician-assisted suicide “has nothing to do with the provision of healthcare services.”
Judge Ottolia agreed, finding that the End of Life Option Act “is not a matter of health care funding,” and is not related to the stated purpose of the special session. He also ruled that Life Legal’s plaintiff physicians have cause to oppose the End of Life Act, as terminally ill patients don’t always have the means to argue against the Act in court.
“We are thrilled by today’s ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients,” said Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “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.”
In attendance at today’s hearing was Stephanie Packer, who suffers from a terminal illness. After the passage of the End of Life Option Act, her insurance company would not allow her to receive chemotherapy treatments that could save her life, but offered her “aid-in-dying” drugs that would cost her $1.20. Since then, she has been an active opponent of California’s laws, and those in other states.
“I am so grateful that California’s assisted suicide law was overturned today,” she said. “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.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra has five days to appeal today’s decision.