By Staff     5/30/2018

The pro-life movement is celebrating this month’s ruling by Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia that overturns the End of Life Option Act, commonly referred to as the physician-assisted suicide law. The ruling stated that California’s state legislature acted outside the bounds of its authority when it legalized physician-assisted suicide in the state, and that the way in which the law was passed was unconstitutional. 

The approval of the End of Life Option Act occurred during a legislative “special session” called for by Gov. Jerry Brown. The purpose of the session was to address funding shortfalls for other programs, including Medicaid, services for the disabled and in-home health services. 

Life Legal attorneys, a group of attorneys who serve as advocates for the under-represented, on Tuesday appeared in court to challenge the way in which the law was passed, arguing that physician-assisted suicide is in no way related to health services. Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia agreed, saying that “the End of Life Option Act does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services,” and that “…it is not a matter of health care funding.” 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was opposed to the ruling that overturned the Act, saying that any legislation that is passed during a special session should be presumed to be constitutional. He argued the ruling, saying Life Legal’s plaintiff physicians didn’t have the authority to challenge the passage of the law. 

Judge Ottolia disagreed, ruling that they did have the standing to represent terminally ill patients who are not in a position to file their own lawsuits to challenge the law. 

Stephanie Packer, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, was present at the hearing. After the End of Life Option Act was implemented, Stephanie’s insurance company denied coverage of life-saving chemotherapy treatment, but said it would pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs, which would cost $1.20. 

Stephanie has spoken out against assisted suicide in California and other states, saying, “I am so grateful that California’s assisted suicide law was overturned today. The bill’s proponents tout dignity, choice, compassion, and painlessness. I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Choice is really an illusion for a very few. For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable ‘treatment’ that is offered them.” 

According to Matt Valliere, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund, the judge gave the state five days to get a stay of judgment from the court of appeals; state attorney general Xavier Becerra this week filed an appeal against Judge Ottolia’s ruling, which Valliere said was an expected move. If Life Legal prevails in the appeal process, the case would likely move to the State Supreme Court. If Life Legal wins at that level, the legalization of physician-assisted suicide will be nullified.