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California Court Invalidates End of Life Option Act

May 25, 2018

Riverside County Superior Court judge Daniel A. Ottolia yesterday officially overturned the California End of Life Option Act. The formal ruling in Ahn v. Hestrin confirmed his earlier verbal ruling, thus far unsuccessfully appealed by the state’s Attorney General).

Implementation Stops

The California End of Life Option Act is no longer in effect (for now). Patients can no longer request prescriptions from their physicians to peacefully hasten their death and the process stops for all those who were already in the process at the time of the ruling.

Remembering Oregon

The announcement of the ruling was the dreaded late-Friday-afternoon-before-the-long-weekend news bomb. And yet it was all too familiar. It was reminiscent of the judicial efforts to thwart the original Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 1994. Like back then, it means that dying patients, some of whom had worked for passage of the law, are forced to endure the very kind of death they fought to avoid.

The opponents of death with dignity who brought this legal challenge forward—extreme religious operatives who want to force their beliefs on everyone—have been at this for decades. They’re using the same line of arguments they did in Oregon 25 years ago, in Washington 10 years ago, and in Vermont two years ago. They ultimately failed again and again, and they will fail again in California, too.

Long Court Battle

We are certain we will prevail when this case is appealed. But the court battle will be a long process. There are more court dates scheduled in California in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, we fully support the State of California’s efforts to stay this outrageous ruling so that the law can be reinstated. And we are working to intervene in the case.

We call on you to support our fight for the long haul. Please chip in to help us defend the California End of Life Option Act.

Yes! I want to help defend death with dignity in California

“I am angry”

In a reaction to the ruling, Death with Dignity National Center Board President George Eighmey said:

“I am angry that terminally ill Californians who have already started the request process or were planning to use the law can no longer count on dying in peace because of a wrong legal interpretation.

“I am angry that invalidating a law designed to aid those at the end of life disrespects the will of the people of California, three in four of whom support this law.

“And I am angry the judge ruled that requesting aid in dying is not a matter related to healthcare at the urging of right-wing religious figures who were in no way affected by the law.”

Continuing the Fight

We will continue to fight this frivolous effort to take away the right to die with dignity from Californians—and all Americans. But it is only with your help that we can win. Please donate today.

Featured image by Brian Wilkins.


Sue McKeown
May 26, 2018 at 8:29 pm

While the particular individuals or groups involved in wishing to overturn this California legislation may wish to do so for faith-based reasons, it is false to assert that everyone who opposes legalized assisted suicide (medical aid in dying) or euthanasia is religious. See [link removed], and [link removed] among others.

Furthermore, can’t you express your anger and disappointment without resorting to name calling like “extreme religious operatives” when referring to people who were instrumental in filing this lawsuit? Don’t most people of good will try to think the best of others? Isn’t that one of the things we were all taught as children?

May 27, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Wether or not this comes down to a religious decision, this is not about you or me. This is about the person living with a disease so unbearable that they cannot continue living. This decision is not something we can make for anybody else! How can anyone be so narcissistic that they think they know what it is like to live in a body that doesn’t work? How can they think they know what it is like to not scratch that itch, move your leg when it isn’t in the right place, shoo the fly away from your arm, etc. This is a prison when you are not able to move. It is a prison when you cannot control your body. Why it is that someone can decide what it best for others living with something others can only imagine? IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!! With this law it allows those who want to stop suffering a way to have a choice that life has taken away from them. If you do not want this then turn away, but allow those who need it to have some peace.

June 5, 2018 at 3:52 pm

I have been witness to the slow painful terminal illness of cancer as it robs a person of life’s enjoyments, and removes all signs of self-respect, and dignity.
I have watched the pain management medication eventually take control of every waking thought of a patient! And when a dying person is more concerned about when the next dose of morphine is available than they are about whether they will be able to see a beloved family member before they pass!

I have witnessed the agonizing flesh stretching, swelling of cancer as it consumed any healthy tissue still living in a patient, deforming their appearance until they can not even recognize themselves!

I have heard patients speak of different ways to end their suffering that involved such things as suicide by cop, driving their cars off cliffs, or head-on into traffic, or colliding with a high-speed train, jumping from a height that assured not surviving, stepping off a transit platform as the train arrives, jumping into the path of a large truck on a busy highway, cutting wrists, overdosing, shooting themselves, etc!

Of course not only are all these methods completely illegal, but most of them also involve the unwilling participation of an innocent person or group of people that do not deserve to have the death of another human being on their conscience for the rest of their own lives!

I do not understand why or how anyone with a shred of compassion would even consider standing between a terminally ill person and the humane and dignified ability to simply complete this amazing adventure we call life in their own time, on their own terms, and with the same contentment that they began it with?!

My best friend has just been diagnosed with cancer for the third time! Her only symptom had been 2 weeks of constipation pain that finally caused her to go to the ER. A sonogram revealed the immediate need to remove her gallbladder. It was during the surgery to do so that a visual inspection of the organs prompted a biopsy to be done. The results were impossible for me to believe! We were told she has stage 4 liver cancer! I am still in shock and disbelief that a 2-week tummy ache could come to such a diagnosis!

Throughout our friendship, she has suffered from extreme depression and often spoke of the pain being so bad that she contemplated suicide.
And I being a true fighter for life, am of the belief that if I am able to continue to fight off my own severe depression, as my best friend she should have that same strength.

This subject had since been tabooed to our friendship because our opinions differ so extensively that the ensuing argument would keep us from speaking for weeks at a time. And this is why!

I would voice my objection to her “taking the cowards way out” when everything could turn completely around tomorrow. And I told her that I could never forgive her for doing something so selfish as not consider the pain to those that she would be leaving behind, mainly me!

She wanted to know how I could show such hypocrisy?
On one hand I can support a person ‘taking an overdose of medication to intentionally die, but on the other hand, I would be angry with her if she were to ‘take an overdose of her own medication to intentionally die?!’
My response was simple, in the first case that person is facing imminent and usually extremely painful death in a relatively short amount of time, with no hope for recovery, and very little hope for any relief from pain until the end.

But in her case, without the presence of physical ailments, I can not condone someone opting to “throw away something that is so precious as life!”

Especially since hope has been known to deliver miracles.
The mystery of life could deliver an answer to her emotional misery tomorrow. I told her I cannot align myself with quitters because they are something I refuse to be, losers!
Her counter argument was that “everyone loses in life something, sometimes, it is just the facts!”
My response, “only quitters lose! if you don’t quit you cant lose! you can only lose if you stop trying!”

This brings my story back to the biopsy results, which she was prepared for but the optimist in me had only prepared to laugh at her for being so worried! We sat quietly for a few minutes, but I could feel her glancing at me as if to say “WELL NOW WHAT SMART ASS?” I choked down the tears I could feel climbing up my throat looked at her and said “OK! You win! I will be there to the very end by your side in full support of any choice you make I swear!”

It was at that moment that the answer to the controversy of Death with Dignity came to me! Much of the reason my friend’s ideas of suicide bothered me so much was that in my mind suicide happens quickly without any real warning, and without a chance for any kind of closure!
But I just gave my best friend my blessing to kill herself in any way she chooses and I swore my support!

By being aware of what’s ahead and having time with her until the end I don’t feel she is abandoning me, I feel a privilege to spend time with her as the sun sets on her life, and not wanting her to deal with any pain she doesn’t feel she can, but watching her push through shows me there isn’t a cowardly bone in her body!
Of course, secretly I have still not resolved myself to believe some miracle is out there, so on my own time I am surfing the web, reading blogs and posts to social media watching for it to appear! That doesn’t mean she will sign up for every hairbrained clinical trial I present to her, but she does accept that I am pretty stubborn and can support her choices while denying the doctor’s prognosis.

Regardless of my hopes prayers and determination, I was very happy that California had finally passed the Death with Dignity laws so when the time comes that my friend must say goodbye, when her quality of life is no longer in the plus column, I could arrange a gathering of those that love her, so everyone could spend some time saying farewell, and when the last guest left I could complete my promise and be there til the end, waiting with her as she took the medicine, and laughing with her about the taste, watching her fall asleep for the last time, and pass peacefully from this life.

With this recent judge’s blocking, and my inability to understand how a simple Superior court judge in one county has the power to block a law that was passed for the entire state!? This is completely insane and against the spirit of the constitution, that a single individual can block a law that affects all of California? How did this judge obtain the supreme power over the people of this state to dictate his personal feelings to be legal and the law passed and signed by the governor and now more than 3 years old is not legal?
If this can happen then where is the judge that presides over his unconstitutional decisions?
I am again fearful for how and when my friend will make her choices! Since relocating to Washington or Oregon is pretty impossible for us, I pray that this judge’s incompassionate ruling can be overturned in time for her to obtain the medication to Die with Dignity,

June 5, 2018 at 4:31 pm

I was taught as a child to do my best never to intentionally cause anyone unnecessary pain or harm. So isn’t the blocking of the law to allow people the dignity to choose for themselves causing them additional pain and harm? Not to mention it is reducing them to the presumed mentality of a child that should not and can not be allowed to make choices for themselves about how they will live or die! The forced continuance of life without quality strips away dignity, it replaces memories of a strong healthy person with ones of an often burdensome and feeble one that must have someone do for them the intimate things they once did privately. Such prolonged life is statistically a major cause of abuse and neglect of the adult dependents.
Don’t you fear that someone that has reached the point in their resolve that they can not continue in the pain and misery of the final months of a deadly disease will find and choose any possible way to end their life? And that many will choose an option that will result in the unwilling participation of innocent people. In most cases a suicidal person is not concerned about the driver of the truck they step out in front of , or the guilt a policeman carries when forced to shoot them to protect others placed in danger or even the family members that are first to find a lifeless body in the tub filled with the blood from the wrists they cut. It is not for anyone other than the patient to know just when enough is enough! And even if this block holds up, the laws suggesting the exceptions to the rules will start being added, so loopholes will exist! Why not just leave it alone! To date, there have been no signs of abuse of the law. As I read in another post if it is something you don’t like turn away from it. The law is there for use by those that want and need it , it is not being forced upon anyone!

Hospice News Digest 06-04-18 | Utah Hospice & Palliative Care Organization
June 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm

[…] and the process stops for all those who were already in the process at the time of the ruling.” Read the full article here. […]

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