A Riverside County Superior Court judge could rule today on a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs in a lawsuit over last year’s controversial End of Life Option Act which went into effect in June. Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed a brief on behalf of the state opposing the suit.
The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last October, would allow terminally-ill patients in the state who fulfill a series of requirements to request prescription drugs to end their lives. Oregon, Washington and Vermont have similar laws on the books.
An injunction would effectively suspend the law until the case is decided. The lawsuit was brought by six doctors and the American Academy of Medical Ethics.
“The state needs to put the brakes on this,” said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation representing the plaintiffs. “People’s lives are at stake.”
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Snyder said the law was poorly conceived and “crammed” into the special session called by Brown in June of last year to address health care funding in the state. Among other things, she said the law does not require a psychiatric evaluation for patients requesting lethal prescriptions, which she said is important become many patients become depressed after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
“The potential for intentional wrongdoing, negligence and mistakes that are not investigated is huge,” she said. “The statute was not carefully thought out.”
Kevin Diaz, an attorney for Compassion & Choices, which supported the End of Life Option Act and filed an amicus brief with the court opposing the injunction, said that even without the psychiatric evaluation, a doctor still has to sign off on a patient’s fitness to make the decision to end their life.
“There’s nothing in the law that asks physicians to abandon the good practice of medicine,” he said.
For the injunction to be granted, the plaintiffs have to prove that the law harms more people than the injunction would.
“In our view, the greater harm by a large margin is keeping people in a state of suffering at the end of life,” Diaz said.
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