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California

Current Status

California’s physician-assisted dying law, ABX2-15 (AB-15), the End of Life Option Act, took effect on June 9, 2016.

The law was immediately challenged in courts; implementation was temporarily halted from May 25 to June 15, 2018, when the 4th Court of Appeal stayed a lower court ruling which had overturned the law.

The End of Life Option Act is the law of the state of California. Physicians may write prescriptions under the law.

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The California 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.

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.”

Legal Challenge

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; a trial was set for September 28, 2018 until it was vacated following the appellate court’s June 15, 2018 stay order.

On May 15, 2018, Judge Ottolia granted 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.

On May 21, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appealed the ruling and requested a stay of the May 15 ruling to allow the law to remain in effect during the litigation process; on May 23, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the AG’s request to stay the May 15 ruling.

On May 25, Judge Ottolia issued a formal, written ruling confirming the law is void as unconstitutional. On May 30 the Judge rejected a motion, filed by terminally ill Californians, to reverse his May 25 ruling.

The California End of Life Option Act was not in effect until June 15, when the 4th Court of Appeal issued a stay on the lower court ruling, reinstating the law while it considers the case.

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On July 18, 2018, we submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the AG.

On August 30, 2018, the appellate court issued 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.

Polls

Endorsements

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

History

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

  • Implementation forms – Written Request for Medications; Interpreter Declaration; Final Attestation

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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