R

IVERSIDE, Calif. — A judge on Friday allowed a legal challenge to proceed against California’s law letting terminally ill patients seek prescriptions for life-ending drugs.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that a group of doctors had provided sufficient information for a lawsuit over the 2016 law allowing medically-assisted death.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra had argued that the suit should be dismissed because doctors aren’t bound to issue these prescriptions and the law merely offers patients a choice. But Ottolia found that the plaintiffs had alleged enough information to argue that the law violates the state’s constitution by treating terminally ill people distinctly from others contemplating taking their lives.

advertisement

“This is a violation of both the equal protection and due process clause of the constitution,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Larson told reporters after the ruling.

California is one of a number of states where terminally ill patients can get prescriptions to take life-ending drugs, along with Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

The law took effect in California in June 2016. It was approved a year earlier but couldn’t take effect until the conclusion of a special session on health care.

To take advantage of the law, patients must be given six months or less to live, make two verbal requests at least 15 days apart and submit a written request.

Newsletters

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

Please enter a valid email address.

During a hearing in Riverside, Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Lynch argued that the law has many safeguards and the plaintiffs — which include doctors and the American Academy of Medical Ethnics — were making allegations based on hypothetical situations.

“This Act takes nothing from anybody,” she told the court. “It gives terminally ill people a right.”
A trial setting conference was scheduled for Oct. 20.

The law passed following the heavily publicized case of a 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life in 2014.

Some see the measure as providing a choice to the dying in a health care system that helps people live longer but is limited in preventing slow, painful deaths. Critics say they fear the option will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnosis and waning support for palliative care.

In the last year, at least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested the prescriptions, according to advocacy group Compassion & Choices. The number includes only those who contacted the organization. The state has not released official data.

Newsletters

Sign up to our Weekend Reads newsletter

Please enter a valid email address.

Kevin Diaz, the organization’s national director of legal advocacy, said he was disappointed but doubted the challenge would succeed.

“It is unfortunate they’re trying to impose their beliefs on people who are suffering unbearably at the end of life,” he told reporters.

— Amy Taxin

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • Sad down to my core to think that people that are at the last part of their lives, the last Junction of their lives. The horrible discomfort and pain and that this release and ability to not die a horrific death maybe taken from them oh my gosh!Put yourself in this position, would you want to die a horrible horrific death? Have the ability to control it and be able to have a conversation with your loved ones before you went. Please interview the people that are terminal and want these medications. Interview the people with chronic pain and chronic illness. The first reporter who publishes a major article in a well-known well circulated publication will end up being one of the founders of an incredible movement. Letting these bureaucratic asses know that we sick people, we people with chronic pain and chronic illness get a life from opioid therapy matter. It is not time to just protect the addicts who even with a mu disruption in their brain have an Avenue of choice we chronically ill and in pain and terminally ill and in pain do not have this choice!We did not ask for our illness, pain! Sincerely, Michelle Wagner MSRC,LPC,BCPC

Sign up for our Morning Rounds newsletter

Your daily dose of news in health and medicine.

X