California’s Right-to-Die Law Struck Down in State Court

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – California’s physician-assisted suicide law, on the books after lawmakers passed it and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it in 2016, was deemed unconstitutional Tuesday by a state court judge who said lawmakers acted outside the scope of their authority by enacting it.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office has five days to appeal the judge’s ruling. In an email, Becerra’s office said it intends to do just that.

“We strongly disagree with this ruling and the State is seeking expedited review in the Court of Appeal.”

In 2017, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia advanced a lawsuit filed by Life Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of a group of California-based doctors and the American Academy of Medical Ethics doing business as Christian Medical and Dental Society, who sought an injunction against the state’s law because it violates the state’s constitution.

The Riverside District Attorney and California Attorney General were named in the suit, which was filed the day before the law went into effect in 2016.

California’s End of Life Option Act provides terminally ill patients an opportunity to take life-ending medication and decriminalizes physician-assisted suicides.

In March, the plaintiffs filed for summary judgment. They say the law is unconstitutional because it was passed during a special session meant to address the state’s Medicaid funding and other services.

On Tuesday, Ottolia agreed the law did not fall within the scope of access to health care services, and ruled suicide should not be considered a medical service. He stayed his ruling, issued from the bench, to give the state time to appeal.

In a statement, Life Legal Defense Foundation executive director Alexandra Snyder said, “We are thrilled by today’s ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients.”

The plaintiffs are also represented by Los Angeles-based law firm Larson O’Brien.

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