- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A California judge has struck down the state’s physician-assisted suicide law, ruling that it was ratified impermissibly during a special session to address Medicaid funding shortfalls.

Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County, ruled Tuesday that California’s End of Life Options Act “does not fall within the scope of access to health care services” and is “not a matter of health care funding.”

Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said the ruling “reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients.”

“The court made it very clear that assisted suicide has nothing to do with increasing access to health care and that hijacking the special session to advance an unrelated agenda is impermissible,” Ms. Snyder said in a statement.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he plans to appeal the ruling. Mr. Becerra has five days to file an appeal.

State Sen. Bill Monning, the Carmel Democrat who carried the original legislation, argued that the bill was properly considered, but said lawmakers could try to pass it again if the law ultimately is rejected by the courts.

The End of Life Options Act allows physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

California is one of eight jurisdictions with legal protections for assisted suicide. Hawaii became the latest state to legalize the practice in April.

Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, which advocates aid in dying, said overturning the assisted-suicide law would force terminally ill Californians to “suffer through needlessly prolonged deaths.”

“While we respect the plaintiffs’ personal opposition to the law, they certainly should not be able to take away the ability of other doctors to offer this option to dying patients to peacefully end their suffering,” Mr. Díaz said in a statement.

There are terminally ill Californians for and against assisted suicide.

Matt Fairchild, a California resident with a terminal melanoma diagnosis, called Tuesday’s ruling his “worst nightmare.”

“I pray the attorney general successfully appeals this decision, so hundreds of terminally ill Californians like me don’t have to suffer needlessly at life’s end,” Mr. Fairchild said in a statement.

Stephanie Packer, who suffers from a terminal lung disease, claims her insurance company denied to pay for a chemotherapy treatment recommended by her doctor, but offered to pay for life-ending drugs instead. She said assisted suicide is often framed as health care, but “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable ‘treatment’ that is offered them,” Ms. Packer said in a statement.

California health officials reported that 111 terminally ill people took drugs to end their lives in the first six months after the law went into effect June 9, 2016, and made the option legal in the nation’s most populous state.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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