Judge Tosses Challenge to CA’s Assisted-Suicide Ban

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A judge on Friday dismissed a terminally ill woman’s lawsuit challenging California laws that prohibit doctors from prescribing life-ending drugs.
     San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack threw out lead plaintiff Christy O’Donnell’s case, ruling that “it’s up to the Legislature or the people to change the law.”
     A civil rights lawyer in Southern California, O’Donnell, 47, sued the state for barring her doctor from prescribing life-ending medication to relieve her cancer which has spread to her brain, spine and liver.
     O’Donnell and her attorneys said in a statement they will appeal and are confident the “appeals court will see our case in a different light.”
     “I don’t have much time left to live and that is why I support all end-of-life options, whether they are authorized by litigation or legislation,” O’Donnell said.
     The lawsuit, filed in May, challenged California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ enforcement of laws that prohibit doctors from giving advice or providing means of assisted suicide. In the complaint, O’Donnell says that her doctor does not provide the life-ending medication because of fear of prosecution under California Penal Code section 401.
     “If aid-in-dying treatments were lawful in California, she would be willing to write a prescription for medication to terminally ill competent adults who, at their own discretion, could exercise the option to self-administer the drug,” O’Donnell says of her doctor in the complaint.
     O’Donnell was joined in the lawsuit by two other terminally ill patients and backed by Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit that offers consultation and legal support for assisted-death laws and litigation.
     Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, said terminally ill patients like O’Donnell are running out of time and that state lawmakers should continue trying to pass end-of-life legislation.
     Senate Bill 128, known as the End of Life Option Act, was shelved by its authors earlier this month after various lawmakers voiced opposition to the bill that would give doctors the ability to prescribe lethal drugs. The bill would have allowed O’Donnell and other terminally ill patients the right to end their own lives, and appeared to gain steam after the California Medical Association dropped its long-standing opposition to the proposal.
     SB 128 cleared the state Senate by a 23-14 margin in June but was met with immediate opposition from lawmakers in Catholic precincts. Prior to an Assembly committee hearing on July 7, the bill’s Democratic authors – Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Martinez, and Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel – removed it from the agenda and ended any further hearings for the year.
     Monning said that 70 percent of California voters want to approve assisted-death laws and that he will continue to work on the bill with committee members for possible hearings in 2016.
     Montana, Oregon, Washington and Vermont have laws or court rulings allowing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.
     In his ruling, Pollack called assisted death quicker and less expensive than prolonging treatment and said there is a much greater potential for its abuse.
     “Further, ‘Aid in Dying’ creates the possible scenario of someone taking his life based upon an erroneous diagnosis of a terminal illness which was, in fact, a misdiagnosis that could have been brought to light by the passage of time. After all, doctors are not infallible,” Pollack wrote.
     O’Donnell’s attorney said his clients disagree with the ruling and will appeal.
     “We are hopeful an appeals court will recognize the rights of terminally ill adults like Christy O’Donnell, who are facing horrific suffering at the end of their lives that no medication can alleviate, to have the option of medical aid in dying,” John Kappos, partner with O’Melveny & Myers, said in a statement.

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