California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Nixes Lawsuit Challenging California Assisted Suicide

Doctors may continue to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who request them in California, according to a state appeals court.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals kept the state's assisted-suicide law alive after a lower court said the law was unconstitutional. The appeals court said the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the law because they did not show any harm to themselves.

However, the appeals panel also remanded the case for further consideration. There will be more on the so-called "right-to-die."

Right to Die

The End of Life Option Act allows terminally ill people to kill themselves through lethal prescriptions when they have less than six months to live. California passed the law three years ago.

In the six months after it took effect, 111 people in California took their own lives under the law. According to reports, most of them were white, college-educated cancer patients over age 60.

Doctors opposing the law sued, and Judge Daniel Ottolia said legislators wrongly passed the law in a special session dedicated to healthcare. But the Fourth District reversed.

The appellate decision has no immediate impact on the law because the court had stayed the trial court decision pending the appeal. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the appeal in May.

"As the Governor indicated, the Act deals with pain, suffering, and the comfort of having the health care options afforded by the Act," the appeal said.

Health Care Options

In their ruling, two of the appellate judges said the case could be amended or refiled. Judge Marsha Slough, however, dissented in part and said the panel should have ruled the law was constitutional.

California became the fifth state in the nation to approve assisted-suicide; Oregon was the first with its version more than two decades ago.

Related Resources: