California Appeals Court Rejects Physician-Assisted Death Lawsuit
On Thursday, a California appeals court affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to allow doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medication to patients who have terminal illnesses, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The lawsuit was filed in May by three patients with terminal illnesses (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29). Gov. Jerry Brown (D) this month signed a bill (ABX2-15) to legalize physician-assisted death in California, but it will not go into effect until 90 days after the state Legislature's special session ends.
Background on Physician-Assisted Death Law
Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced ABX2-15 during a special session on health care financing after a similar measure (SB 128) stalled in July amid a lack of support in the Assembly Committee on Health.
ABX2-15 will allow some dying patients to end their lives through lethal doses of medication, as long as:
- Medication is self-administered;
- The patient is mentally competent; and
- Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live.
Several amendments were added to the bill in the special session, including one that requires patients to reaffirm their consent within 48 hours prior to taking the lethal dose of medication.
The bill's authors also added an amendment to sunset the law after a decade, making it effective only until Jan. 1, 2026. However, the state Legislature could vote to extend it (California Healthline, 9/18).
Details of Lawsuit
In the court decision, Associate Justice Alex McDonald wrote, "We believe prescribing a lethal dose of drugs to a terminally ill patient with the knowledge the patient may use it to end his or her life goes beyond the mere giving of advice and encouragement and falls under the category of direct aiding and abetting."
The plaintiffs' attorney, John Kappos, said they are considering appealing the case to the state Supreme Court (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.