SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A state appellate court on Wednesday denied a request for an immediate stay of a ruling that said California’s assisted-suicide law was wrongly passed in a special legislative session.
The May 23 decision by California’s 4th District Court of Appeal did give the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, more time to provide arguments as to why the lower court’s ruling should be overruled.
Judge Daniel Ottolia of the Riverside County Superior Court had ruled May 15 that lawmakers had unconstitutionally passed the law in a 2015 special session of the legislature dedicated to health care funding.
Ottolia’s ruling was welcomed by the California Catholic Conference, whose executive director, Ned Dolejsi, said May 18: “Our opposition to assisted suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought this bill for many, many reasons.”
“Health care professionals … questioned why the state was embracing doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect and support,” he said. “Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients — often refused coverage for palliative care — were offered coverage for lethal prescriptions instead.”
Dolejsi also noted: “At an oversight hearing in January to review the implementation of the End-of-Life Option Act, even though presented with clear evidence of poor data collection and other implementation uncertainties, legislators openly discussed ways that physician-assisted suicide could be expanded, especially to poor and minority communities.”
Under the law, lethal prescriptions may be given to adults who are able to make medical decisions if their attending physician and a consulting physician have diagnosed a terminal disease expected to end in death within six months.
The initial legislative effort to pass an assisted-suicide bill failed in committee during the 2015 regular season. It was subsequently passed during a special legislative session later the same year that was called to address state health care funding shortages.
Opponents of the law have charged that it was rushed through the special session and lacks safeguards against abuse, such as an adequate definition of terminal illness.
In the first six months after the law took effect, 111 people in California committed assisted suicide under its provisions. Assisted suicide has also been legally sanctioned in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.