Aug. 26, 2016 – Compassion & Choices praised a Riverside Superior Court decision today to reject a preliminary injunction motion that was filed to suspend the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law.
However, the Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia allowed the suit by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians asking the court to overturn the law to move forward.
The End of Life Option Act gives terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully and quickly in their sleep if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. The law took effect June 9, 2016.
Judge Ottolia ruled the legislature enacted the law properly during the healthcare special session, the law’s definition of terminal disease is not unconstitutionally vague and the law does not violate the Hippocratic Oath of “Do No Harm.”
“This ruling is a victory for terminally ill Californians and their families because now they know they won’t have to live through needlessly painful and prolonged deaths,” said John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Compassion & Choices urging the court to deny the preliminary injunction. “While the court still has to decide the merits of the case, based on this ruling and prior court rulings in similar cases, we are confident we will prevail in the end.”
“This ruling is a validation for the families of terminally ill Californians like Christy O’Donnell and Jennifer Glass who bravely fought until their last breath to pass the End of Life Option Act,’” said Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz. “The court ruled that suspending the law would have done more harm to terminally ill Californians who want the option of medical aid in dying than the hypothetical harm to the physician plaintiffs who have not had any patients who have requested this option.”
“After all the work I and other terminally ill adults did to pass the End of Life Option Act, this ruling is a great relief,” said Sacramento resident Elizabeth Wallner, who has stage IV colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs. “Now my son Nathaniel no longer faces the prospect of having to witness his mother die in agony.”
“I thank God the court made the right decision,” said Matt Fairchild, a Catholic, 46-year-old, retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank living with terminal melanoma that has spread to his bones, lungs and brain. “Now my wife Ginger will not have to worry about watching me suffer because I still have the option of medical aid in dying.”
“What a relief for my wife Debbie and me to know I do not have to fear an agonizing dying experience,” said 88-year-old Wolf Breiman, a retired landscape architect from Ventura who was diagnosed seven years ago with an incurable cancer of the white blood cells called multiple myeloma. “Now I can enjoy my life with her to the fullest in my remaining days.”
“After watching my wife Michelle die in agony from cancer two years ago because she could not utilize medical aid in dying to die peacefully in her sleep, I am thankful the court did not take away this option for other terminally ill Californians,” said Tujunga resident Deborah Reuter-Zsarko. “Now terminally ill Californians can focus on living the rest of their days with their loved ones knowing this option is available if they need it.”
“This ruling is a huge win for terminally ill adults who want the option of medical aid in dying to stop unbearable suffering and their physicians who want to offer this option,” said Dr. Wayne McKinny, a retired pediatrician with terminal bladder cancer who lives in Desert Hot Springs. “The court wisely decided not to intervene in these highly personal end-of-life care decisions and preserve the very delicate patient-physician relationship.”
Compassion & Choices’ friend-of-the-court brief, which the court accepted, is posted at: www.compassionandchoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/160719-CONFORMED-Riverside-Amicus-Brief.pdf