Right to Die: Judge overturns assisted suicide law

Jennifer Glass, 51, who was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer last year, just four months after getting married, is photographed at her home in San Mateo, Calif., on Nov. 3, 2014, one day after Brittany Maynard ended her life in Oregon. "I am at peace with the idea that my life will end," she said. "What terrifies me is the thought of how it may end if my cancer runs its course." (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

A California judge has overturned the law the grants terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with a doctor’s help, reigniting an emotional debate over an issue that had seemed long settled.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that the Legislature violated the state constitution by passing the 2015 law during a special session called to address emergency needs in the state’s health care system, not aid in dying. Ottolia kept the law in place and gave the state attorney general five days to file an emergency appeal of the ruling before a higher court, where a longer stay could be granted.

If the state is unsuccessful in defending the law, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, vowed to re-introduce the measure before the full legislature.

“I’m disappointed and distressed. They were grasping for a reason,” said Monning. “There will always be a future option to reintroduce the same legislation – nothing prohibits us from doing that. But that’s not the option we hope for.”

The law It allows physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to Californians diagnosed as having less than six months to live, and at least 111 terminally ill people have used it to end their lives. Of those who have requested the drugs, the majority, or 58.6 percent, suffered from cancer, 18 percent had a neuromuscular disorder such as ALS and Parkinson’s, and others had heart and respiratory diseases. Throughout the state nearly 500 hospitals and health systems, more than 100 hospice organizations and 80 percent of insurers now participate.

The original legislation seemed destined for failure in the face of opposition from the Catholic church and personal and religious concerns from some doctors and a group of mostly Southern California Democrats. But it was re-packaged as part of a special legislative session on health care funding, bypassing the Assembly Health Committee where it had stalled. In his signing message, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, expressed his extensive deliberations over the historic bill, writing “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

That seemed to conclude a 23-year effort to pass a “right-to-die” law in a state of 39 million, more than quadrupling Americans’ access to life-ending drugs. California was the fifth state to take such a step.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians condemned the strategy and turned to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health

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