Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Riverside judge holds hearing on End of Life Option Act

Supporters of a measure to allow the terminally ill to end their own life march at the Capitol while calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Opponents have gone to court to block the law.
Supporters of a measure to allow the terminally ill to end their own life march at the Capitol while calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Opponents have gone to court to block the law. AP

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.”

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.

WORTH REPEATING: “Obviously, he was a man who knew where all the bodies were buried. He probably buried himself many bodies in this building.” - Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León on the late Greg Schmidt.

VIDEO: California Teachers Association employees rally for pension benefits

WALK IN THE PARK: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is holding a press conference on the site of the future Presidio Tunnel Tops, a 14-acre parkland project that will be built over the Presidio Parkway tunnels. The park will provide views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge and will contain resources to educate children about nature. The event will take place at 1:20 p.m. for credentialed media.

CONGRESSIONAL VISIT: U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is running against Harris for Boxer’s Senate seat, will visit Toro Park along with Rep. Sam Farr for a briefing on how the Chimney and Soberanes fires have affected Monterey County and local relief efforts. Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, the California National Guard and Fort Hunter Liggett will provide the briefings. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

CELEBRATING: Happy birthday on Saturday to state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, who is turning 63, and on Sunday to Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, who is turning 64.

Anshu Siripurapu: 916-321-1060, @AnshuSiripurapu

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