Judge Rules 2016 California Law Allowing Physician-Assisted Death was Unconstitutionally Approved by Legislature

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia issued an oral ruling holding that the California Legislature acted illegally in passing a law allowing terminally ill adults to be prescribed life-ending drugs if a doctor determined the patient has six months or less to live. The law allows medical professionals the right to refuse to prescribe and dispense life-ending drugs. Further, the terminally ill patient must be able to self administer the drug.

Judge Ottolia did not rule on the legality of allowing physician-assisted death, but did issue an oral ruling stating that the Legislature acted improperly when the law was enacted through a special session devoted to separate topics, thus declaring the law unconstitutional. Judge Ottolia gave the state attorney general five days to appeal. California is one of only five states in which terminally ill patients may end their lives. A report shows that 111 terminally ill people in California took life-ending drugs in the first six months after the law went into effect in mid-2016. A forthcoming report in July will reveal updated figures.


Additional Reading

Judge tosses California law allowing life-ending drugs, The Washington Post (May 15, 2018)