RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California appeals court has denied Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s request for an immediate stay on a lower court ruling that overturned the state’s assisted suicide law.
The decision was handed down May 23 by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside. The court gave Becerra and other interested parties 25 days to provide more arguments as to why the court should grant the stay and suspend the lower court ruling.
The attorney general requested the stay after Judge Daniel A. Ottolia of Riverside County Superior Court ruled May 15 that the California Legislature violated existing law when it passed the End of Life Option Act during a special session dedicated to health care.
The 2015 law, which went into effect in June 2016, authorized doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to any patient determined by two doctors to have six months or less to live.
On June 16, 2017, Ottolia ruled that a civil rights lawsuit challenging the assisted suicide law could go forward. Five California physicians and the American Academy of Medical Ethics brought the legal challenge.
In reaction to Ottolia’s May 15 decision to overturn the law, the executive director of the California Catholic Conference called the ruling encouraging because it “was a bad law.”
“Our opposition to assisted suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought this bill for many, many reasons,” said Ned Dolejsi said in a May 16 statement.
The Sacramento-based California Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
“Health care professionals were shocked at the cynicism and questioned why the state was embracing doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect and support,” Dolejsi said in his statement. “Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients — often refused coverage for palliative care — were offered coverage for lethal prescriptions instead.
“Still others were truly disturbed by the lack of safeguards to prevent seniors and the disabled from being railroaded into assisted suicide,” he continued.
Last year in arguing against the lawsuit going forward, Becerra said that no one would be required to resort to the law. But he also said that terminally ill patients are different from others and therefore can be treated differently, and that patients who choose to end their lives have the right to have a physician help them do so.
If state lawmakers again take up the issue of assisted suicide, Dolejsi said, “we hope they address the real issue in front of them — how do we protect the dignity and quality of life of those among us facing a serious or terminal illness, and how do we help our loved ones feel love and support as they contemplate the end of their life.”