Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Page 1


Judge Overturns California’s End of Life Option Act


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A Riverside Superior Court judge yesterday held the state’s End of Life Option Act is unenforceable because it was enacted by the Legislature during a special session that was called for an unrelated purpose.

Judge Daniel A. Ottolia gave the state Attorney General’s Office five days to file an emergency appeal of his ruling.

Ottolia accepted the position of Life Legal Defense Foundation that the California Supreme Court’s 1942 decision in Martin v. Riley is controlling. There, the high court said:

 “The duty of the Legislature in special session to confine itself to the subject matter of the call is of course mandatory. It has no power to legislate on any subject not specified in the proclamation.”

Gov. Jerry Brown called the special session in 2015 to address Medicaid funding shortfalls. On Oct. 5 of that year, he signed into law AB 15 which permits lethal drugs to be prescribed to adults who have six months or less to live owing to an incurable illness.

Judge’s Ruling

The judge declared that “the End of Life Option Act does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services,” and that it “is not a matter of health care funding.”

The action was brought by the American Academy of Medical Ethics and five California physicians. Ottolia found that the doctors do have standing to bring challenges on behalf of their patients.

Amicus curiae in support of the law was Compassion & Choices, represented by O’Melveny & Myers. John C. Kappos, partner in that firm, said yesterday:

“We respectfully believe the Court misinterpreted the application of the state constitution to this law because medical aid in dying is a recognized health care option. Ultimately, we are confident an appeals court will rule the legislature duly passed the End of Life Option Act and reinstate this perfectly valid law, which the strong majority of Californians support.”

Plaintiffs’ Attorney Comments

Legal Life’s executive director, Napa attorney Alexandra Snyder, commented:

“”We are thrilled by today’s ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients. 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.”

The legislation was enacted after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with a terminal disease, gained public attention when she moved in 2014  from California to Oregon in order to obtain assisted suicide. Her widower, Dan Diaz, said yesterday:

“I made a promise to my wife Brittany that I would continue her fight to authorize medical aid in dying in California….In Brittany’s honor, I will once again focus all my efforts to convince Governor Brown, the attorney general and the courts to keep this law in effect.”

Moribund Patient

Stephanie Packer, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, was present at the hearing. After AB 15 was enacted, her insurance company denied payment for chemotherapy, but offered to pay $1.20 for lethal drugs.

She remarked:

“I am so grateful that California’s assisted suicide law was overturned today. 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.”

California is one of seven states—the others being Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Hawaii—as well as the District of Columbia, that have enacted laws authorizing assisted suicide.


Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company