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Judge Overturns CA Assisted Suicide Law

A California judge issued a ruling yesterday in which he declared the state’s End of Life Option Act to be unconstitutional because of the way it was enacted.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation is reporting on the ruling by Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia which found that the Act’s sponsors introduced the bill in a special session of the legislature that was called to address healthcare matters such as Medicaid funding shortfalls, services for the disabled and in-home health support services – none of which had anything to do with assisted suicide.

Life Legal attorneys argued that the End of Life Option Act, which decriminalizes physician-assisted suicide, is not related or even incidental to the stated purpose of the special session because suicide is not health care. And because the law was passed during this special session, they argued that it should be overturned.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra opposed this position, stating that legislation passed during special sessions is presumed to be constitutional. The Attorney General also argued that Life Legal’s plaintiff physicians do not have standing to challenge the End of Life Option Act.

Judge Ottolia ruled that doctors do have standing to bring challenges on behalf of their patients, especially in this case, as terminally ill patients would face significant difficulties filing their own lawsuits against the Act.

In the end, the judge agreed with Life Legal, saying 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.”

“We are pleased with today’s ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients,” said Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “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.”

Present during the hearing was Stephanie Packer, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and whose insurance company denied coverage for life-saving chemotherapy after the End of Life Option Act was passed. Instead, they agreed to pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs which would cost them just $1.20.

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

Attorney General Becerra is expected to appeal the ruling.

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