California AG appeals decision invalidating state’s dangerous assisted suicide law

By Dave Andrusko

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

To absolutely no one’s surprise, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Monday filed an appeal of Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia’s oral ruling last week holding that lawmakers illegally used a special session in 2015 to ram through a highly controversial assisted suicide law.

Becerra “also asked that the law stay in place while the matter is further litigated,” according to Soumya Karlamangla of the Los Angeles Times.

“Ottolia ruled that the state Legislature violated the state’s constitution by approving the law during the session, as it wasn’t a healthcare matter,” Karlamangla reported. Judge Ottolia did not rule on the underlying issue of permitting health professionals to assist someone in ending their life.

As a result of the appeal, the 4th District Court of Appeal will decide next on the state’s highly controversial law which has been in litigation since signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

If the court of appeals upholds the law, the plaintiffs could then ask the California state Supreme Court to review the case. The plaintiffs include the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which represents six doctors, and the American Academy of Medical Ethics.

The Los Angeles Times reported that “California’s data from the law’s first six months show that 173 physicians wrote the 191 prescriptions statewide.”

In 2015, when the California legislature’s regular session had come to a close, the assisted suicide bill had stalled in a Senate Health committee due to concerns over potential dangers. An extraordinary session was called which normally is intended to finance state health care.

The bill was pushed through over the objection of dozens of diverse groups, including those in the disability rights community, the American Medical Association, and pro-life groups.

California, along with 5 states (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii) as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized the dangerous practice of allowing a person’s physician to prescribe a lethal overdose of medication to certain patients—assisted suicide or, as proponents like to call it, Medical Assistance in Dying.

However, in 2018 alone, dozens of identical initiatives were defeated by a determined coalition comprised of a wide variety of groups.

Part of the explanation for why almost all the initiatives (over 175 legislative attempts over the years) have been defeated is that every proposal is very similar to Oregon’s nearly 20-year-old law. Critics were able to cite Oregon’s experience to prove conclusively that the “safeguards” in assisted suicide laws do not work the way proponents say they will.

Many observers have noted that medical cost concerns will be an inherent problem with these kinds of laws since the lethal drugs used are relatively cheap. Other abuses documented and exposed range from patients with dementia and mental illness receiving a lethal dose, to numerous non-terminally ill people getting prescriptions, to pressure from the state health plans to utilize the cheaper suicide option. The real depth and number of abuses is difficult to know, especially since physician reporting is very limited or simply not done.

According to the non-partisan group, the Patient’s Right Action Fund which opposes assisted suicide and seeks to protect the rights of patients and people with disabilities,

In thinking about this complex and often personal issue of Assisted Suicide, we ask that you separate private wishes or experiences and, rather, focus on the signifi­cant risks of legalizing Assisted Suicide in a diverse society – including individuals with chronic illness and disability that is not terminal if managed, non-English speaking households, economic difficulty, and limited healthcare specialist access.

In other words, these laws are simple too dangerous and they cannot be allowed to spread any further!