California appeals court refuses to block ruling overturning aid in dying law

California appeals court refuses to block ruling overturning aid in dying law

California’s 4th District Court of Appeal [official website] on Wednesday denied a request to stay [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling that threatens to invalidate the state’s End of Life Option Act [text] which allows physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally ill.

California Attorney General Xavier Beccera [official profile] sought to block last week’s ruling [JURIST report] from Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County Superior Court, which said that the End of Life Option Act was procedurally unconstitutional because the act was passed during a special legislative session meant to address health care. Additionally, Ottolia said that assisted suicide is not considered health care. Beccera rejected that argument and contended [NPR report] that the healthcare funding session was “broadly germane” to the assisted suicide bill.

According to John Kappos, a partner with the law firm representing the advocacy group Compassion and Choices [advocacy website], the law is not invalidated and physicians who write prescriptions for terminally ill patients who seek the end-of-life care option will still be legally protected.

Compassion and Choices, which filed an amicus brief in the case two years ago, led the campaign to pass the law before it was signed by Governor Jerry Brown [official website] in 2015. In the first year after the law went into effect, more than 500 California residents received the end-of-life drugs.

Seven states, including California, as well as the District of Columbia, have laws protecting physicians who provide medical aid in dying.