Judge To Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Calif.’s Assisted Suicide Ban
San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack said he would issue a formal ruling on Monday (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 7/24).
In May, Compassion & Choices filed a lawsuit alleging that California's ban on physician-assisted suicide violates the state constitution.
The lawsuit -- which was filed on behalf of a palliative doctor and three terminally ill patients -- argued that the California Constitution and current state law permit doctors to:
- End life-sustaining treatments under certain circumstances; and
- Provide patients "terminal sedation," in which a patient is sedated into unconsciousness until he or she dies.
The plaintiffs argued that there is no distinction between such practices and physicians prescribing lethal doses of medication (California Healthline, 5/19).
Details of Dismissal
On Friday, Pollack said he did not have the authority to declare the state's ban on physician-assisted suicide unconstitutional (Watson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/24).
Instead, Pollack said the issue should be decided by new legislation approved by the state Legislature or voters ("State of Health," KQED, 7/24).
He said, "You're asking this court to make new law," but "you can't get it from a lower level Superior Court judge." He added, "If new law is made, it should be by the Legislature or by a ballot measure" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/24).
The plaintiffs in the case said they plan to appeal the decision.
Christy O'Donnell, one of the plaintiffs, said, "I am confident the appeals court will see our case in a different light" (Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News, 7/27).
John Kappos, O'Donnell's attorney, added, "We are hopeful an appeals court will recognize the rights of terminally ill adults like Christy O'Donnell, who are facing horrific suffering at the end of their lives that no medication can alleviate, to have the option of medical aid in dying."
Meanwhile, opponents of assisted-death practices applauded the decision.
Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund said, "We're very pleased to see the judge's ruling," adding, "Where assisted suicide is legal, some people's lives are lost without their consent through mistakes and abuse" (Schencker, Modern Healthcare, 7/24).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.