Calif. Suit Seeks To Allow Assisted Suicide for Terminally Ill Patients
On Wednesday, a cancer patient and five physicians in California filed a lawsuit that aims to exempt doctors from a state ban on assisted suicide for patients with terminal illnesses, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 2/11).
A renewed push for right-to-die regulations in California comes after state resident Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon to legally end her life. Maynard, who had an inoperable brain tumor, died in Oregon on Nov. 1, 2014, using a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor.
Attempts in California to pass death-with-dignity laws have failed after running into stiff opposition from physicians and religious organizations (California Healthline, 1/21).
Details of Lawsuit
According to Kathryn Tucker, executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, the lawsuit challenges a state ban on assisted suicide by arguing that physician-assisted death for patients with terminal illnesses is not suicide.
The lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleges that the Legislature has never explicitly prohibited physician-assisted death (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 2/11). Specifically, the suit argues that a ban on physician-assisted death violates the state Constitution's guarantee of:
- Due process;
- Equal protection;
- Freedom of speech; and
State Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón (D) were named as defendants in the suit (AP/New York Times, 2/11).
Tucker said physician-assisted death is more likely to be legalized in the courts than through legislation. She added, "We're hopeful the court will fulfill what is quintessentially the court's responsibility, not the Legislature's, which is to determine the scope of existing law" (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 2/11).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.