Court Strikes Down California’s Assisted Suicide Law

Ahn-Team.pngRIVERSIDE, Calif., May 25, 2018—California’s assisted suicide law was struck down as unconstitutional on Wednesday afternoon.

Last week, Judge Daniel Ottolia held that the passage of the Act violated Section IV of the California Constitution and gave Attorney General Xavier Becerra five days to file a motion with a higher court to have his ruling stayed pending appeal.

On Wednesday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the Attorney General’s motion for a stay, effectively striking down the “End of Life Option Act.”

Life Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the End of Life Option Act in June 2016, citing numerous concerns about the Act, including lack of patient safeguards and the unlawful manner in which the law was passed. In March 2018, we filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings seeking to have the law permanently enjoined and voided as unconstitutional.

The End of Life Option Act was passed during an extraordinary legislative session convened to address California’s Medicaid funding shortfall, services for the disabled, and home health support. The Constitution requires any legislation introduced during such an extraordinary session to be related to the purpose of the session.

Judge Ottolia found that the End of Life Option Act “does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services” and “is not a matter of healthcare funding.” Moreover, the court ruled that, “The legislation decriminalizing assisted suicide cannot be deemed a matter incidental to the purpose of the emergency session.” This is not a “preliminary” ruling; it is a final order declaring that the End of Life Option Act was passed contrary to the requirements of the California Constitution.

“Life Legal has always maintained that the End of Life Act violates the Constitution and California’s long-standing public policy protecting its citizens from being ‘helped’ to commit suicide,” noted Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “We are pleased that the court’s ruling will restore the protection that the Act removed from the ill and vulnerable.”

While California’s assisted suicide law may still be in effect at this moment, it is only because the trial court has not yet signed the judgment confirming its ruling on the motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding the law unconstitutional. It is irresponsible for anyone to suggest, to the public and particularly to a cadre of doctors who are writing dozens of lethal prescriptions each year, that the assisted suicide law will continue to be in effect pending the ruling of the appellate court.