RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A Superior Court judge in California has refused to halt the state’s assisted suicide law amid a legal challenge from several local doctors and a Christian organization that represents physicians nationwide.
As previously reported, last October, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the End of Life Option Act, which allowed terminally ill residents to seek help to end their lives.
“I have carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by a number of doctors, religious leaders and those who champion disability rights,” he said in a statement. “I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful.”
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown outlined. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
In June, the Act officially went into effect, and just days before the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of five Californian doctors, as well as the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME), which represents over 600 doctors in the state.
“Under the Act, ‘terminal illness’ includes any condition that, if left untreated, would cause death within six months. This encompasses many types of illnesses—even those that can be successfully treated—if the patient decides to forego treatment,” the Foundation said in a press release. “Moreover, predicting life expectancy is crude and fraught with subjective judgment. Physicians’ predictions for life-expectancy are frequently wrong.”
It also noted that the law provided “no safeguards for labeled individuals who may suffer from untreated mental illness or mood disorders and grants full immunity for doctors to participate in the killing of their most vulnerable patients.”
On Friday, Judge Daniel Ottolia, appointed to the California Superior Court by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, denied LLDF’s request for an immediate injunction against the law, but said that the plaintiffs could proceed with their legal challenge.
“The injunction would subject them to additional pain,” he opined, according to Reuters.
The state had asked that Ottolia dismiss the case altogether for a lack of standing, but he refused that request as well.
“Plaintiffs have patients that fall under the act so the case is not hypothetical,” Ottolia said.
Reports state that 30 California residents have obtained lethal prescriptions since the law’s passage in June.
“There are plenty of cases of elderly people suffering and people just want them gone,” attorney Stephen Larson told reporters. “This makes it too easy.”