By Tim Rosales
On May 15th, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that the End of Life Options Act was unconstitutional. The law took effect on June 9, 2016 and was ruled unconstitutional by Ottolia because the Legislature passed the law during a special session convened by Governor Jerry Brown to address health care related issues.
At the time of its passage, California became the 5th state to approve physician’s assisted suicide.
Ottolia gave California Attorney General Xavier Becerra five days to file an emergency writ; to seek a stay and keep the law active during the assumed appeal process. Ultimately, the court of appeals agreed with Ottolia’s ruling and denied Becerra’s writ of appeal, but did give Becerra, or other interested parties, 25 days to provide additional arguments as to why the court should grant the stay.
The initial lawsuit to overturn the law was filed the same day the law took effect by a coalition of groups that included the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the American Academy of Medical Ethics.
CNN reports, “In a separate motion, they argue that medical aid in dying was not related to the stated purpose of the special legislative session that passed the act, explained Alexandra Snyder, the executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.” Some interested parties even go so far as to say that the special session was “hijacked” and used to pass the legislation more rapidly and with less scrutiny.
It was this aspect of the lawsuit that Ottolia centered his decision upon – the legality of passing this law during the special legislative session. In other words, the legislation did not align with the state purpose of the Legislative special session.
Matt Valliere, Executive Director of PRAF, released a statement in response to Ottolia’s ruling that focuses on the broader issues at hand with assisted suicide when he said, “Halting the law likewise has the benefit of protecting a great many vulnerable people against deadly harm through mistakes, abuse and coercion – risks that go hand in hand with this type of dangerous public policy.”
Valliere’s statement continues, “This ruling confirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process. It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”
Currently, we await a June 29th hearing where Ottolia will consider a motion by Becerra to reverse his earlier decision.
***Update: Following the writing of this article and as of the publish date of this newsletter a state appeals court has reinstated California's law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives. The court gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.***