California suit aims to permit doctor-assisted suicide

California suit aims to permit doctor-assisted suicide

[JURIST] Cancer patient Christie White and five physicians in California filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in San Francisco County Superior Court [official website] on Wednesday challenging a state ban on physician-assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally ill patients. The suit alleges that California’s ban violates the California State Constitution [text] guarantee of due process, equal protection, freedom of speech and privacy, and further argues that such physician-assisted deaths should not be considered suicide. Opponents of the change in the law argue that patients under duress would be unfairly influenced to end their lives, while plaintiff White pleads [statement], “I am asking the state of California to remove the legal barrier between my doctor and myself to help me achieve a peaceful and dignified death at the place and time of my choosing.” The new push comes in the wake of California resident Brittany Maynard‘s [CNN report] move to Oregon to legally end her life due to an inoperable brain tumor in late 2014.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue in the US and around the world. In January California Senators Wolk and Monning introduced [JURIST report] a bill [SB 128, PDF] to permit patients who meet specific criteria the right to medically end their lives. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada struck down [JURIST report] the country’s ban on medically assisted suicide. Also this month a group of patients and doctors filed a lawsuit in a New York court requesting a declaration [JURIST report] that physician-assisted suicide is not illegal under New York state law. In 2006 the US Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act [JURIST report], making Oregon the only US state that allowed assisted suicide at that time. Vermont, Washington, New Mexico and Montana now also allow assisted suicide. Possibly the most contentious right to die case ended in 2005, when Terri Schiavo [JURIST op-ed] passed away following a heated legal battle between family members on whether to artificially maintain her life in a vegetative state.