California appeals court reinstates law allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives

A portrait of Brittany Maynard sits on the dais of the Senate Health Committee as lawmakers heard testimony in 2015 on the proposed End of Life Option Act. Maynard, who had terminal brain cancer, moved to Oregon from California to legally end her life there.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A California appeals court on Friday reinstated a law allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives.

The ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal allows the controversial law known as the End of Life Option Act to remain in effect, giving patients who have less than six months to live access to lethal medications from their doctors.

Opponents of the law have until July 2 to file a petition opposing the court’s decision.


Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra fought to reinstate the law in recent weeks with a court appeal. He celebrated the court’s most recent action Friday.

“This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions,” he said in a statement. “Today’s court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state.”

Last month, Judge Daniel A Ottolia ruled the law’s passage was unconstitutional because the Legislature approved the law during a special session dedicated to healthcare issues and this law wasn’t a healthcare matter.

Several attorneys and organizations such as the Life Legal Defense Foundation sued to have the law overturned.

Supporters of the aid-in-dying law were pleased with the reinstatement.

“This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, whose sister organization, Compassion & Choices Action Network, led the campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act.


“Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail.”

California’s law granting patients the right to assisted suicide took effect in 2016. It is a practice that has been allowed in Oregon for more than 20 years.

Now, nearly 1 in 5 Americans live in a state where physician-assisted suicide is legal, according to Compassion & Choices.

In the first six months that California’s law was in effect, more than 100 people used it to end their lives. State data show 59% of them had cancer.