California judge overturns End of Life Option Law

Judge pulls plug on California's assisted-suicide law

Brittany Maynard garnered national attention when she and her husband packed their belongings into a U-Haul and drove 600 miles north from California to OR so she could take advantage of the state's right-to-die law and die peacefully.

"We are thrilled by today's ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients", Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder said in a written release.

Judge Daniel Ottolia, of Riverside County Superior Court, ruled against California's End of Life Option Act [text] on Tuesday, which allowed physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients.

Unless an appeals court suspends the ruling, it will prevent mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live from using the law, the group Compassion & Choices, a national organization supporting medical aid-in-dying, said in a statement. Jerry Brown called in 2015 to address emergency needs in the state's health care system - specifically, funding shortages for Medi-Cal, disability care and in-home nursing care.

On Tuesday, Ottolia heard argument from both sides surrounding the matter and agreed with LLDF that the passage of the bill was not related to the special session. 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 goal for the session.

While the overturning of the California law disappointed Diaz, he said he is optimistic more states will enact legislation moving forward.

He noted that state lawmakers had defeated four right-to-die measures during regular sessions after state voters rejected an assisted-dying law in 1992.

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The legislation gained new support in California from the plight of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old schoolteacher from Alamo who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014.

A total of seven states - California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington - as well as the District of Columbia have laws on the books legalizing medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients, terminology preferred by advocates to the phrase "physician-assisted suicide". Facing a painful death, she moved to OR, where the nation's first such law was passed two decades ago, and legally obtained a doctor's prescription for the drug she used to end her life.

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. She said assisted suicide is often framed as health care, but "nothing could be further from the truth".

Asked for a comment, Brown's office said Ottolia's current assessment of the right-to-die law's relationship to public health was different from his analysis in 2016, when he let the law remain in effect. "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 the first year that the law became effective, Monning said some 111 people in California have chosen to end their lives.

"I am so grateful that California's assisted suicide law was overturned today".

Opponents of the law filed a lawsuit claiming it was unconstitutional. "But that's not the option we hope for".

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