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No stay of ruling that tossed California assisted-death law

No stay of ruling that tossed California assisted-death law
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

An appeals court Wednesday refused to block a court decision that said a California law allowing the terminally ill to end their lives was passed illegally.

California's 4th District Court of Appeal refused to grant an immediate stay requested by state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. But the court did give Becerra and other parties time to "show cause" — that is, provide more arguments as to why the court should grant the stay and suspend the lower court ruling.

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There was no immediate comment from Becerra's office.

A national group that supports the law, Compassion & Choices, issued a statement saying it remains in effect as the case winds through the courts "and patients can still access it."

"Physicians still are protected under the law to write prescriptions for their terminally ill patients who want the end-of-life care option ... to peacefully end intolerable suffering," said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices. "This preliminary ruling is just one step in what promises to be a long legal battle, so people should not change their current treatment plans because of it."

The law lets adults obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live. The Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians challenged the law in court.

Last week, a Riverside County Superior Court judge ruled that the law had been passed by the state Legislature in violation of the California Constitution because it was approved during a special session on other topics — specifically, healthcare issues.

But he gave Becerra a few days to appeal the decision.

Becerra's request to the appellate court argued that the measure was legitimately passed and asked for quick action so that terminally ill people seeking options under the law wouldn't die "an excruciating, painful death" before the issue is finally decided.

California health officials reported that 111 terminally ill people took drugs to end their lives in the first six months after the law went into effect June 9, 2016, and made the option legal in the nation's most populous state. Oregon was the first to provide the option in 1997. It also is allowed in Washington state, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.

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