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California

Current Status

End of Life Option Act Is In Effect

California’s physician-assisted dying law, ABX2-15 (AB-15), the End of Life Option Act, took effect on June 9, 2016 and is currently in effect. Patients may request and physicians may prescribe life-ending medications under the law.

The End of Life Option Act closely follows the model of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act with some modifications, most of which are required to comply with the California statute.

Polls

Endorsements

The California Medical Society changed its position on the then-proposed law from opposed to neutral in June 2015.

Legal Challenge

We present the chronology of the legal challenge to the End of Life Option Act in a reverse chronological order for easier viewing.

2019

  • February 27 – The Supreme Court of California denies the plaintiffs’ petition to review their case. The law continues to be in effect.
  • February 12 – Plaintiffs respond to the AG’s answer urging the California Supreme Court to review the case.
  • January 28 – California AG files an answer to the plaintiffs Supreme Court petition, asking the court to deny the petition on standing.
  • January 8 – Plaintiffs petition for the Supreme Court of California to review the Fourth Court of Appeal decision, arguing they have standing (or satisfy an exception to standing requirements). They also ask the Supreme Court consider the substantive constitutional issues of the law.

2018

  • November 27 – The Fourth Court of Appeal overturns the district court decision nullifying the End of Life Option Act, ruling the physician plaintiffs who had brought the suit forward had no standing to do so because they are in no way harmed by the Act.
  • August 30 – The appellate court issues a tentative ruling overturning the lower court’s decision against the law based on the plaintiffs’ lack of standing; oral arguments are scheduled for October 9. The law continues to be in effect.
  • July 18, 2018 – Death with Dignity National Center files an amicus curiae brief in support of the California Attorney General.

  • June 15 – The Fourth Court of Appeal stays the lower court ruling which nullified the law. The End of Life Option Act is reinstated while the Court considers the case further. The Court also vacates the upcoming trial.
  • May 30 – Judge Ottolia rejects a motion, filed by terminally ill Californians, to reverse his May 25 ruling.
  • May 25 – Judge Ottolia issues a formal, written ruling confirming the law is void as unconstitutional. Implementation of the law is halted.
  • May 23 – California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal denies the AG’s request to stay the May 15 ruling.
  • May 21 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeals and requests a stay of the May 15 ruling in order to allow the law to remain in effect during the litigation process.
  • May 15 – Judge Ottolia grants, in a temporary, verbal ruling, a motion of the law’s opponents, saying the California State Legislature violated the state constitution by passing the law during a special session limited to healthcare.

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2016

The law was challenged in courts immediately after going into effect on June 9, 2016.

On the day the Act went into effect, a group of anti-choice physicians filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the Act’s implementation. Their argument was twofold: the law is unconstitutional because it was passed during a special legislative session dedicated to healthcare and the law is not related to health care; the law is invalid because it violates equal protections and puts doctors in harm’s way.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia denied the request for an injunction to stop the new law from taking effect. However, the Judge allowed a portion of the suit to proceed.

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History

In the 2018 legislative session, the California legislature approved and Governor Brown signed into law AB-282 which amends the California penal code to “prohibit a person whose actions are compliant with the End of Life Option Act from being prosecuted for deliberately aiding, advising, or encouraging suicide.”

The California law is a result of 25 years of work. Death with Dignity Political Fund has provided strategic support for the effort in California.

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Resources and Additional Information

About the Statute and Its Implementation

About the Legal Challenge

Resources for Patients

Resources for Healthcare Providers

Take Action

Defend the California End of Life Option Act

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Support the fight for death with dignity in California

The End of Life Option Act is under attack from religious doctors seeking to take away the right to die with dignity from terminally ill Californians. Contribute to our efforts to defend the law from frivolous litigation!

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