A judge has struck down a California law that legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill people because it was unconstitutionally approved by the state legislature during a special session that was intended to address healthcare issues.
End of Life Option Act, which decriminalized physician-assisted suicide for patients who have six months or less to live, was introduced during a special legislature that was supposed to be focused on issues regarding Medicaid funding, in-home health support services and services for the disabled.
Attorneys with the group Life Legal have argued that the legislation was not supposed to be included in the special session because suicide cannot be considered as health care.
Euthanasia activists, on the other hand, contended that the topic of assisted suicide was relevant for the special session.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra defended the passage of the legislation, arguing that measures passed during the special session were presumed to be constitutional.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia sided with Life Legal, saying the lawmakers had illegally approved the law, noting that the subject of the legislation had fallen outside the scope of access to healthcare services.
Official statistics have indicated that as many as 111 terminally ill patients have already taken life-ending drugs in the first six months after the law was enacted in June 2016.
Becerra had argued that physicians opposing the 2016 law had no standing to challenge the measure in court.
Ottolia, however, said that physicians can file a lawsuit on behalf of their patients, especially in cases when the patients are terminally ill and are incapable of filing their own suits.
Life Legal hailed Ottolia's decision, saying, "We are thrilled by today's ruling, which reinstates critical legal protections for vulnerable patients."
"The court made it very clear that assisted suicide has nothing to do with increasing access to health care and that hijacking the special session to advance an unrelated agenda is impermissible," Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Snyder said in a press release.
Stephanie Packer, a terminally ill patient who attended the hearing, also celebrated the judge's ruling.
Life News reported that Packer's insurance company had refused to cover her chemotherapy treatment but offered to pay for "aid-in-dying" drugs.
"I am so grateful that California's assisted suicide law was overturned today," Packer said, according to a news release on Christian News Wire.
"The bill's proponents tout dignity, choice, compassion, and painlessness. I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Choice is really an illusion for a very few. For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable 'treatment' that is offered them," she added.