By Dave Andrusko
On Friday, in the latest in what promises to be a protracted legal battle, the 4th District Court of Appeals suspended a decision by a lower court judge that had invalidated California’s “End of Life Option Law” and reinstated the highly controversial law immediately.
Opponents were given until July 2 to file objections. The plaintiffs included the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which represents six doctors, and the American Academy of Medical Ethics.
On May 15 Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia declared the law unconstitutional. He explained that in 2015 the legislature violated the state constitution by passing the law during a special session that was supposed to be limited to health care issues.
In Ahn v. Hestrin, Judge Ottolia did not rule on the issue of whether health professionals could assist someone to end their life.
Assisted suicide proponents hailed the state appeals court’s decision.
“This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case,” Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement. “Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail.”
In its original brief seeking an injunction against the law, the Life Legal Fund argued
* The Act violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the California Constitution
* The California State Legislature passed the Act ultra vires, as its subject matter was not within the express reasons for convening the extraordinary session. The California Constitution establishes that the Legislature has no power to pass a law in an extraordinary session outside of the express purpose of the session.
* Irreparable harm will result if relief is not granted. Indeed, the Act permits Labeled Individuals to procure the means of ending their own lives within 15 days after it takes effect. An injunction is crucial to maintaining the status quo until the Act’s legality is determined.
In 2015, the assisted suicide bill had stalled in a Senate Health committee due to concerns over potential dangers as the legislature’s regular session came to a close.
“Sensing an opportunity to pull an end run, the speaker of the Assembly had a new bill introduced to legalize assisted suicide during the special session — which was not germane to the purpose for which the special session had been called,” as Wesley J. Smith wrote.
Dozens of diverse groups, including those in the disability rights community, the American Medical Association, and pro-life groups objected to the maneuver, but the bill was muscled through anyway.